How to Name Your Dog: Cool, Creative, Good Dog Name Tips

There are rules, people.

candid photo of a man with a beard hugging his dog and kissing him on the cheek

So, you got a dog. First of all: Congratulations! You made the right choice. The fish was never going to cut it, and the whole family has a new best friend. But now that Fido is in your house for good, and you’re buying dog food, treats, and toys, you’ve got to deal with the next step: how to name your dog. Naming your dog a unique dog name that is cool, creative, uncommon, clever, but also good dog names that make sense and aren’t needlessly complicated is a fine art. Luckily, we spoke to the experts so you don’t have to.

After all, picking a cool, unique dog name for females, or males, is necessary. Max, Scout, and Bella are all too common. Steven and Mark are definitely not unique enough, and weird. There’s a lot to consider.

And there are probably more considerations than you might have first thought, too. For instance, did you know that names with vowels are far better? Or that it’s best to avoid those with too many syllables? That’s why we chatted with Nicole Ellis, a certified dog trainer and a member of’s Dog People Panel, for some dog-naming advice. Read on to make sure your new pooch’s name is on point.

1. Choose a Good Dog Name That Ends With a Vowel

Names with vowels change tone when you call for your dog. This matters, because dogs distinguish frequency ranges at a much higher level than we do. “With a vowel name, it’s really easy to get their attention,” says Ellis, who named her dog Rossi. Of course, Buddy, Ziggy, Josie, and Taco all work, too.

2. Stick With Two Syllables

Long names, per Ellis, should be avoided. “With those, you usually just end up shortening it, anyway,” she says. So what’s the sweet spot? Two syllable names. A good way to test the name is, per Ellis, to just repeat it a bunch of times. “If you’re comfortable saying it over, and over, and over, that’s the name,” says Ellis. I’ve seen people call their dog Puppuccino, which is cute, but after five times they don’t want to be saying that anymore.”

3. Avoid Creative Names With Negative Connotations

You might think it’s funny to give your adorable Corg the ironic title of “Cujo”, but it’s a bad idea. “Not everyone is going to want to pet a dog named Cujo, or dog-sit a dog named Cujo,” Ellis says.

4. Don’t Pick a Clever One That Might Get Confused With Commands

Consider the commands you’ll be giving your dog frequently. Does its name sound too similar? Unless you want a lot of headaches later, pick a different name. Bo could be mistaken for ‘No.’ And Ray could be mistaken for ‘Stay.’ says Ellis.“Those are behaviors that I ask for a lot in the dogs I train, and I don’t want them to think I’m yelling ‘No’ at them when I just want them to come over and pay attention to me.”

5. Choose A Name That’s Unlike Your Other Pets

“Make sure that your pet names are dissimilar if you have more than one dog,” says Ellis. “They shouldn’t be so close to one another that the dogs can be totally confused.” In other words, Bert and Bluebell are totally fine, but Spot and Scott are not.

6. Perform The “Nickname Test”

Should you get a dog, you will give it nickname. Ziggy quickly morphs into Ziggymans, Zig, Zigster, Mr. Zig, and 1,000 more permutations. So, if you choose a name — especially a longer one — try to come up with a ton of nicknames, and good ones, not ones like ‘Buddy,’ to see if there are nicknames that are easy to say, sound like their full names, and are cute. Otherwise, per Ellis, you’ll risk confusing your dog.

7. Think Of Your Dog’s Personality

Miniature poodles can be named ‘Tater Tot’ (reasoning: the texture of their fur!) and bulldogs ‘Butterball’ (reasoning: duh) But beyond looks, personality is a huge indicator of what you might want to name your dog. For example, Ellis named her dog Rossi, after the motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi. “My dog is crazy, and runs around like a maniac, super fast all day. So that fits him.”

8. Choose a Name And Stick With It

If you’re adopting a dog from a shelter, they already have a name that you’ll probably want to change. But there are limits. Once you pick a name, you shouldn’t waffle. “Within the first two months, you should have a name for them. Try to pick one you won’t hate later, but remember that one or two changes won’t be the end of the world, but you have to positively reinforce it as soon as you have a new one.”