What to name the new puppy?
For our family, choosing a name was neither simple nor swift. After all, it had taken my daughters a decade of whining and deliberating over breeds that wouldn't aggravate the allergy-stricken (me) just to get to the point of agreeing to get a Havanese.
And because I am the family research queen, I found a way to make the process even more complicated. A little research elicited a lot of information.
I found lists of the most common dog names. A website with thousands of names, sorted into categories like "cool," "cute" and "unusual." And countless do's and don'ts from self-anointed dog-naming experts.
There were phonetics rules. And rules that ignored phonetics, instead placing a premium on achieving family harmony. And, of course, there was a simmering debate: Whose needs should the name serve, yours or the dog's?
One of the most consistent pieces of advice I found was to stick to names of one or two syllables, which quickly catch a puppy's attention. People seem to drift in that direction anyway. At a puppy training class, I met Gracie, Nigel, Sasha and a schnauzer mix named Browser
The four-syllable Gentleman Jack of Cedar Grove, N.J., defies this rule. When Lauren Meyer, a stay-at-home mother who owns a Labradoodle, first saw a picture of him, she wanted to call him Jack, because she thought he looked like a frisky rogue. But her son insisted on a name with a little more class. At the time, he was a student at the University of Virginia, whose guiding spirit is the gentleman-scholar Thomas Jefferson. Also, the dog is whiskey-colored, and Gentleman Jack, it should be noted, is a brand of Jack Daniel's whiskey.
On occasion, the name expands to six syllables. "When he's bad," Meyer said, "we call him Gentleman Jack Meyer."
Another piece of advice: To help the puppy distinguish its name from ambient noise, choose something with a sibilant consonant or blend (an "s," "sh" or "zh") or, better still, a crisp, commanding consonant (a "k" or hard "c").
Some experts also advise picking a name that ends in a long vowel or a short "a." Martin Deeley, a Florida trainer and executive director of the International Association of Canine Professionals, said he prefers names that end in a long "e," like Benny or Dolly. "I think it gives a nickname a loving touch," he said. "Sweet becomes Sweetie."
He also recommended making sure the name could not be confused with a command. That eliminated names like Kit, which sounds too much like "sit," and Beau, which sounds like "no" (the Obamas obviously ignored this rule).
Another caution: Try to avoid the most popular names. Consider the canine traffic jam that could ensue at the dog park when a pack of owners starts calling their Maxes and Busters.
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But don't go in for anything trendy or overly witty.
Pick something enduring, that you and the dog can live with, one hopes, for a decade or more.