When Name Nerds Name Pets

When Name Nerds Name Pets

For so many people, bringing a pet home is one of the most joyous and exciting days of their lives. There are a lot of decisions to make, but for name nerds, all they're thinking about are pet names.

This is what I went through recently. I have loved dogs my entire life, and we have been fortunate enough to have some pretty awesome pooches in my family. But since I live in Australia and my parents are in the US, I don’t get to see my beloved canine “siblings” Luke and Hannah–Claire as much as I’d like. (They’re very good at using Skype, though.) It was finally the right time for me to bring home two puppies of my own. As fate would have it, there were two Maltese girls that were meant to join my family. But what to name them?

Naming a puppy has many of its own unique challenges, separate from naming a baby. For one thing, you don’t have to worry about how the name will sound on a judge or neurosurgeon. You don’t have to think about how kids at school might tease it. You don’t have to think about how many other kids with that name will be at the playground. But when our pets have their own Instagram accounts (mine do!), Fido and Rover just don’t fit the bill.

You have to really like the name, since you’ll say it for the rest of your life. (We will always talk fondly about my childhood dog, Tucker.) When you haven’t had kids yet, but would like to eventually, you don’t necessarily want to use up any of the names on The List, but you don’t want to feel like you’re settling, either. I found some tips online that said the name should be short but not sound like a command (Joe sounds like No, Kit sounds like Sit.) It also suggested seeing what your dog’s personality is like– but that wasn’t an option this time around because of the paperwork that needed to be finalized first. I also hit the Nameberry forums, of course (thanks, Berries!) and my mom was a great sounding board.

I first had to decide what style I wanted to go with. Most people would agree that you have more leniency with a dog than a person. A Papillion named Diva is adorable; a human, less so. There were cutesy names that I found myself liking for a Maltese that I’d never consider for a human; Sailor in particular kept standing out, but I couldn’t think of a good match for it. I generally like people names on dogs, but I wanted to avoid the most popular crossovers, like Sadie, Lucy, and Molly. I decided to stick to one of my favorite styles: short and sweet vintage.

So I made a list. The final contenders were Alice, Georgia, Hazel, June, Margot, Sylvia, and Violet. My mom and I both love Margot, but I was afraid that it could be confused with the command Go. Violet was a name that I have loved for a long time, but because of its popularity it has lost its luster as a baby name for me, so I decided that I’d like to use it for my pup. That ruled out Hazel for me, since I thought it was too theme-y with Violet. My other frontrunner was Georgia, but I was having trouble putting it with a middle name. (Yes, we do do doggy middle names.) So I asked my brother, an impartial third party. He instantly chose June, in honor of our beloved childhood dog Tucker, who was born in June. (It was always going to be a middle name if not a first.) He also liked the potential nickname Junebug—how could I say no to that?

Violet and June needed middle names, which ended up being a combination of names with meaning to me: Violet Annabelle Augusta because Annabelle was my mom’s childhood nickname, and Augusta is a fusty old name I love and my grandma and brother were both born in August; June Olivia Ottoline because my mom suggested Olivia (as in de Havilland, who had just turned 100) and Ottoline because it is a nod to the French/German cultures that have meaning for me, and I love how old-fashioned and old world it sounds.

Now Violet and Junie (as she has come to be called) are happy eight-month-old pups who love to play in the park, cuddle, and yes, update their Insta.

What did you name your pets? How did you decide? Did they get “human” names?

About the Author

Kara Blakley

Kara Blakley

Kara Blakley is a PhD candidate in Art History at the University of Melbourne. Her interest in names began when she received her first Cabbage Patch doll. Today, Kara’s name obsession is enhanced by her love of nature, history, music, art, and traveling.