The art of naming a dog

For some people the task of naming a dog is perfectly obvious. Others leave it to the kids. But for some the task becomes a vexing dilemma. today’s New york times carries an essay on the trails and tribulations of coming up with something better than “Spot,” “Fido,” or simply “Dog.”images

“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 Web site with thousands of names, sorted into categories like “cool,” “cute” and “unusual.” And countless dos and don’ts from self-anointed dog-naming experts.

“It was an art. A science. Serendipity. Intuition.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. What to name the new puppy?People seem to drift in that direction anyway. At a recent puppy training class, I met Gracie, Nigel, Sasha and a schnauzer mix whose name was the perfect marriage of 21st-century preoccupations and ür-dogginess: Browser.

“JoAnn Vela, the owner of Canine Cuties Dog Grooming, in Chicago Ridge, Ill., has four dogs: Moose, Bleu, Tyson and Coach. Moose, she explained, because their English mastiff was such a galumphing klutz. Bleu, because her daughter thought the dog looked so sad. Tyson, because her husband wanted the German shepherd to have a tough name. And Coach, because when her daughter gazed longingly at the Shetland sheepdog in a pet shop window, the dog gazed back longingly at her Coach purse.

“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,” Mrs. 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”). Laura Waddell, a dog trainer and animal behaviorist in New Jersey, works with a bred-in-captivity wolf named Tacoma, and she named her own golden retriever-spitz mix Loki. “They can distinguish frequency ranges that we cannot, particularly dogs with pricked ears, which work almost like parabolic microphones,” she said. “The hard consonant is a relatively sharp sound that the dog can respond to quickly. I think sibilant sounds are more muddled for them.”

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