The Name Game

A light-hearted look at names


A puppy needs just the right name to live up to, a name that fits his personality or his appearance or his owner's expectations. A puppy's name will be used dozens of times each day. It should be short and sweet, preferably one or two syllables. It should not sound like anyone else's name or like any of the commands that will be used to tell the puppy what you expect him to do.

Some owners bestow plain and simple names on their canine companions --many a Dusty or Rusty, Bob or Blackie, Patches or Spot lives in urban and suburban neighborhoods throughout the country. Other owners name their pooches after favorite book, movie, or television characters; sports; favorite relatives; or favorite foods; there's a plethora of Sherlocks, Scarlets, Spocks, Sluggers, Sams, and Sugars around.

Still other owners confer humorous appellations upon their unsuspecting pets. A Great Dane becomes Tiny or Peanut, a Shih Tzu is Superman, a black Cocker is Snowball, or a Mastiff is Pansy.

Breeders, especially those who compete in dog shows, do all this and more.

Some breeders follow themes in naming their litters of puppies. Some use a variation of the parents names.

Others name the pups for their attitudes, their potential as a winner, a natural feature, a movie title or character, a favorite recipe, a famous person, a phrase in a song, or a bit of jargon from business, law, the theater, or other fields of endeavor. Humor is popular, as are spelling variations.


Everyone knows that a positive attitude is half the battle. If this were true at dog shows, there's be considerably more than one winner of each class, for many purebred dogs are named with great expectations.

There are several First Editions, Special Editions, and Second Editions at most all-breed shows.

A perusal of several show catalogs finds the power of positive thinking in names such as Front Page News, Color Me Special, Hot Damn Here I Am, Show Stopper, Prototype, Something Special, Stage Presence, Exclusive, Movin' Fancy Free, Second to None, Freedom's Celebration, The Right Stuff, Singular Sensation, and Totally Awesome or their offspring in the show catalogs.

Some owners use reverse psychology in naming their hopeful winners: Above the Law, Hulk Hogan, Love at First Bite, Armed 'n Dangerous, Ain't No Saint, Queen of Mean, and Simply Sinful all get their turns in the ring.

Movies and TV

The silver screen and the boob-tube provide hundreds of dog names.

Star Wars, Jedi Knight, Jedi Master, Jedi Warrior, Indiana Jones, and Road Warrior represent the sci-fi flicks;

Scarlett O'Hara, Ashley Wilkes, Rhett Butler, and Gone With The Wind pay homage to the Civil War classic; and Red October, Magnum Force, True Grit, Make My Day, Dirty Harry, Jewel Of The Nile, Tequila Sunrise, Lethal Weapon, Top Gun, For Your Eyes Only, Casino Royale, and Diamonds Are Forever represent the action-adventure genre.

Chariots O' Fire, Moonstruck, Flashdance, Wizard of Oz, and Music Man round out the cast of dogs named for movies and movie characters.

TV contributions to the entry may be Lonesome Dove, Leave It To Beaver, Doktor Quincy, Barnaby Jones, Great American Hero, The Equalizer, Remington Steele, Hill Street Blues, Magnum PI, Designing Woman, Murphy Brown, and The Young And The Restless.

For the name-droppers, Errol Flynn, Charlie Hustle, Oprah Winfrey, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Walt Disney, Princess Di, Greta Garbo, and Agatha Christie (or their offspring) made appearances.

The gourmet section

Lots of Cookies from different recipes (Chocolate Chip, Sugar, Oreo, Cinnamon Sugar, and Fortune) may be there, along with main dishes Orange Roughy, McDLT, and Jambalaya; beverages Cafe Au Lait, Hawaiian Punch, and Coca Cola Classic; snacks Tea 'n' Crackers, Macadamia, and Almond Joy, and desserts Plum Pudding, Chocolate Confection, Peach Cobbler, and Peaches 'N' Cream.

Molly McButter, Clover Honey, Red Hot Chili Pepper, Velveeta, Caviar 'N' Cashews, Brown 'N' Serve, Blueberry Muffin, and two Butter Brickles complete the menu.

Current events

The military action in the Persian Gulf led to a number of Stormin' Normans, Desert Storms, and Desert Sands. Other newsy names are Open Door Policy, Wall Street Wizard, Senator, Morning Newsmaker, and Foreign Cliche.

Laughter: The best medicine

The dog owner's obligatory sense of humor shows in these names: Santa Paws; Bull Wrinkle; Doogie Bowser; Lionardo Da Vinci; Big Harry Deal; Miss Marple and her mother, Wagatha Christie; Sam I Am (a Samoyed, of course); Dudley Puddles; Polly Esther; Queen Elizabasset; Raisin Cane; an Old English Sheepdog dubbed London Britches; a dachshund named Daddy Long Legs; and three dogs called The Butler Did It.

First At The Finish Line

A few breeders christen their canines after famous equines. Seven dogs in the Louisville catalogs were named Winning Colors, three were called Spectacular Bid, and two were called Easy Goer. Man O' War, Foolish Pleasure, War Admiral, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, Affirmed, Sunday Silence, Genuine Risk, Ruffian, and Gallant Fox completed the field.

Spelling lesson

The number of letters in a dog's name is limited, as is the number of dogs that can have the same registered name, so breeders vary the spelling of some names to get the point across within the prescribed number of letters while avoiding duplication. Certain words lend themselves to spelling changes and are appropriate for dog names. There's time, thyme, and tyme; knight, night, and nite; magic, majic, and magique, etc.

But the imagination knows no limits....

...So,catalogs list Bizzy Boy, Tilly The Hun (and Tila The Huny Bear), Enuf Is Enuf, Grin-N-Barrett, Otterly Ridiqlus (an Otterhound), Forever In Blue Genes; Hair-E-Brown (a chocolate Labrador) Tye One On; Justin Tyme; Thyme & Thyme Again; All In Good Thyme, Paws For Applause, White Thai And Tails, and Knight Rider.


Some breeders prefer theme names for their litters. They'll use a variation of the dam's or sire's name, the month or season in which the litter was born, or any other theme that will help identify the pup in the future.

Thus Starry Night has a litter including Night Music and Night on the Town; Caught Red Handed has a litter including Caughtcha Looking, Caught Cheating, and Caught The Brass Ring; and Sara Lee has a daughter called Piece of Cake.

The Indian litter may include Aztec, Kiowa, and Cheyenne; the summer litter may include August Moon, Junebug, and Summer Breeze, and so on.

Many dogs are given names from their breed's country of origin. Rottweilers, Dobermans, and German Shepherds get German names; Poodles, Briards, and Bouvier des Flandres get French names; and British breeds get names like Lady Di and Fergie.

The following themes were found in a single show catalog. Constellation, an English Springer Spaniel, sired Orion and Perseus; Heartbreaker and Sweet-Heart, Afghan Hounds, produced Mary Heartman; Alpha Centauri and Rescue Me, Siberian Huskies, produced Beam Me Up Scottie;

Marauder and Bushbaby, Australian Cattle Dogs, produced Bushwacker; Holy Moses and Heavens To Betsy, Brittanys, produced Heavens Above; Deal Me Aces, a Cocker Spaniel, produced Deal The Cards, Deal Me In, Casino Girl, and Deal Me Kings;

Mr. Coffee, an American Water Spaniel, sired Mr Espresso; and Sorcerer, another Siberian Husky, produced Daughter of Darkness.

Call names

Since no one is going to stand in the yard and call "Deal Me Aces, come," or enter the show ring saying "Chariots O' Fire, let's go," breeders give call names to their dogs that may or may not bear any relationship to the registered name.

Thus The Winds Of Change is Pebbles, the Akita Chariots O' Fire is Hoss, Star In Motion is Rion, and Showdown At Big Sky is Sam. Miss Snow Bunny is Snow, Sadie Mae's Midnight Serenade is Sadie, and Deck the Halls is Decker.

Humans attach much significance to a name. Parents give children names that honor a revered relative or friend or hold promise for a bright future. They choose a famous name in hopes that success will rub off on the growing child. Dog owners do the same.

For those who are fascinated by names and the mysterious significance they hold, perusing a dog show catalog can be great fun.

Norma Bennett Woolf

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