You can change a dog's name, However, changing a dog’s name shouldn’t be a matter of preference only. You need a good reason to change your dog’s name. Although you can call your dog whatever you want, name changes can be confusing.
If you must call your dog a different name, it should at least sound the same phonetically. It also matters how you introduce the new name. In most cases, it’s advisable to continue with an old name if your dog is already used to it.
When Is It Prudent To Change Your Dog’s Name?
1. When Adopting A New Puppy
When you are getting a new puppy, you can change the puppy’s name to whatever you see fit. Although animal shelters or rescues usually name puppies at birth, there’s nothing wrong with giving your new puppy a new name if they have just spent a few weeks or months in the shelter.
2. When Adopting A Dog From An Abusive Home
A dog that has been subjected to abuse should be given a new name to signify a new start. Dogs can associate old names with abuse. A new name is a great place to start the healing process.
3. When The Dog Ignores The Old Name
In some cases, dogs may not be fond of their names. In such a case, you can choose a new one. This change should be experimental and gradual. You can call out their old name to see if it still grabs their attention. If your dog stops responding to their old name, making it hard to execute commands that follow, it's time for a brand new name. To change your dog's name in such a circumstance, you will need some effective training, which will be discussed below.
When It’s Not Advisable To Change Your Dog’s Name
1. When Getting A Show Dog, Rescue Dog, Service Dog Or Working Dog
It’s not advisable to change the name of a show dog, service dog or working dog which has gotten used to responding to their name. This is particularly true if the dog’s entire training is largely dependent on responding to their name. Changing the name of such a dog is bound to cause real issues.
2. When Adopting A Family Dog
You should also keep the name of your new dog if you are adopting him/her from a stable home. A family dog that has been in a loving home for years will be confused by sudden name changes unless you take measures such as choosing a similar-sounding name. Otherwise, a name change isn’t necessary.
How To Change A Dogs Name: How Do You Teach A Dog A New Name?
If you’re wondering how you can change a dogs name, there are a number of approaches to follow.
i. Reward-based Training
This has to be the easiest way of training a dog to do anything, including responding to a new name. This type of training attaches meaning and value to a new name, making it easy to learn. For instance, if you want to call your dog Zion, you should reward your dog every time they respond to the name. If your dog gets a reward for responding to something, they will gladly learn whatever you want to teach them.
You can use a name game to get started. The training can take a few minutes daily. The training is as easy as saying your dog’s name repeatedly and rewarding your dog with a treat every time they respond. You can repeat this training for five to ten minutes daily.
To make this training effective, don't repeat your dog's new name if they don't respond immediately. Instead, use exciting noises to get their attention i.e., whistles. When your dog responds to the sound, call them their new name and reward.
It's worth noting that reward-based training can be challenging initially. For instance, your dog may not respond as expected initially i.e., look at you directly or come towards you. When your focus is changing your dog's name, you just need to get the slightest attention from your dog. If they turn their head to respond, that’s enough response to warrant a reward. Your dog doesn’t need to stand or run to you every time you call their name for you to register some training progress.
ii. Name Change Training
If your dog already has an old name they respond to fast and easily, introduce their new name using a name game. To do this effectively, follow the three-step approach below:
Step 1: Use the old name enthusiastically (with a happy tone of voice). When you get your dog's attention, follow it up with a yes/clicker then reward your dog. Repeat this for a few times (i.e., five times).
Step 2: Introduce their new name sparingly followed by the old name. Use the two names interchangeably with a brief pause between the two. Reward your dog when they respond. Repeat for five or more times.
Step 3: Drop their old name: At this stage, they should be familiar with their new name so, stop using the old name. Reward your dog every time they respond to the new name. Repeat the process.
iii. Everyday Name-change Training
Another training technique to consider when training a dog aware of their old name is to alternate their old and new names in daily life. This technique doesn’t require a specific training time. Instead, training is during everyday interactions with your dog i.e., during playtime, feeding time, exercise time, and any other time you spend with your dog on a daily basis.
For training to be effective, both names have to be used in equal measure initially. As your dog starts responding to their new name, use it more than their old name until you phase out the name completely. You can incorporate name change training sessions for faster results.
Helpful Tips When Renaming Your Dog
As you try to change your dog’s name, there are some helpful tips to consider for the process to easier.
1. Be patient: You must take your time. Although there are timelines suggested by different certified dog trainers, some dogs learn faster than others regardless of breed. What's more, there are many other variables that come into play. The most important factor is to be patient. Renaming your dog will take time. It can't possibly be a one-day affair. You should take time and get to know your dog's personality, distinguishing traits, etc. to adjust training accordingly.
2. Make the new name rewarding: Rewards are a crucial part of any dog training session. The new name you choose for your dog should mean good things. Treating your dog every time they respond will fasten the name changing process. You should avoid using the new name when scolding your dog otherwise, he/she might associate the name with trouble and stop being as responsive.
3. Avoid conflicting names: While you are free to call your dog whatever you like, choose a name that isn't conflicting i.e., names that phonetically sound like "NO". Conflicting names will confuse your dog and lengthen the training time.
4. Choose a new name that sounds like the old one: It also helps to choose a similar sounding name if you are keen on shortening the renaming time. If the old name was Molly, Polly would be an ideal new name.
5. Involve the other family members in the renaming process: To avoid confusion, involve other family members in the name changing process. For instance, everyone in your home should use the new name accordingly when calling the dog. This may require a communal training approach.
Frequently Asked Questions About Renaming A Dog
1. At What Age Can You Change A Dog's Name?
You can change your dog’s name at any age. However, puppies and younger dogs learn new names faster than adult dogs. The above name changing techniques can help you change your dog’s name fast and easy regardless of their age.
2. Can You Change A Puppy's Name At 10 Weeks?
Yes. Provided you are consistent and use the appropriate techniques, it’s even possible to change a puppy’s name in less than 10 weeks.
3. How Traumatic Is It For Dogs To Change Owners?
Although dogs can be stressed and depressed when they change owners, it’s more traumatic and unhealthy for a dog to remain in situations where they can’t be cared for accordingly. Dogs will adjust quickly if they find a happier and caring new home.
4. What Are The Downsides Of Renaming Your Dog?
There are no guarantees that you will be able to change your dog's name successfully, especially if they have used the old name for years or all their life. What's more, there are many variables that can alter the effectiveness of the renaming process. Some dogs will take a few weeks, while others will take forever based on reasons beyond your control.
For the entire process to work seamlessly, you need to invest time and effort in updating everyone in your household. The process also needs consistency. If there is a slight confusion in training which is inevitable in a household with children, brace for a longer process.