Pet names beyond Fido and Fifi

With input from her college-age son, Lauren Meyer of Cedar Grove, N.J., decided on the name Gentleman Jack for the family Labradoodle.
With input from her college-age son, Lauren Meyer of Cedar Grove, N.J., decided on the name Gentleman Jack for the family Labradoodle.
Published June 3, 2013

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.