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21 Names You Will Never, Ever Name Your Dog

March 31, 2020 laurawattenberg 12 Comments

21 Names You Will Never, Ever Name Your Dog

March 31, 2020 LauraWattenberg 12 Comments
Morose dog named Keith

You might think that when you’re naming a dog, anything goes. But in reality, there are limits. Some names are exclusively human.

Doubt it? Just try to picture going to the park and hearing dog owners calling out these names.



“Fetch, Suzanne! Heel, Steven!” Not likely, is it?

All of those names, perfectly normal for humans, sound odd and frankly a little ridiculous for dogs. Which is surprising, because the names we choose for babies and pets are moving ever closer together. As pet owners treat their furry companions more and more like members of the family, animal-only classics like Spot and Fluffy are giving way to human-style baby names.

But not all human names are created equal for dogs. Cuddly little old-fashioned names like Max, Lucy and Bella are especially popular, along with diminutive nicknames like Charlie and Maggie. Surnames are hot choices too, especially -er action names like Cooper and Tucker. Then come the names that are less common for dogs, but not ridiculous: ultra-old-fashioned names like Gertrude, notably unusual names like Sigmund, and youthful names like Brayden.

Now let’s imagine the opposite of those dog-friendly styles. The names would have to be formal but familiar, and neither very young nor very old: common middle-aged names. And sure enough, those are the kind of names that sound surprising on dogs today—even more surprising than they sound on babies.


Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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  • Kayeff
    Kayeff March 31, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    Brian Griffin might disagree ?
    But in real life, these are the sorts of names that contrarian pet owners would love!

  • Amy3 March 31, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    I have a friend whose dog is Kenneth. I’ve also known dogs called Nathan and Curtis. My own dog is William, which might fit on this list.

    • nedibes
      nedibes March 31, 2020 at 3:24 pm

      Kenneth is a little surprising, but Nathan and William seem pretty on-trend for dogs. Curtis feels more like the “unusual/old-fashioned” category, rather than the “names I’d give a baby” category.

      I do think that some of these will start to show up on dogs, in the same contrarian spirit that gave us Max as a dog name back in the 1970s, when Max was more of an “ugly old man” name rather than a “cute little kid” name.

      All these people names on animals (and especially names that could be adult people) sure do contribute to the “wait, you’re dating Darryl? What happened to Mark? You seemed so happy together. Oh, Mark is your DOG! I thought he was your partner, sorry…So, is Darryl human then?” awkward moments. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

  • TheOtherHungarian
    TheOtherHungarian March 31, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    You’ve listed Brian twice. 🙂

    • LauraWattenberg
      LauraWattenberg March 31, 2020 at 5:29 pm

      Drat, that means that I dropped another name by mistake! I’ve removed the duplicate Brian, but what should replace it? Eric or Erica, maybe? [Edit: upon a quick vote of my household, Erica has joined the list]

  • Jamie March 31, 2020 at 9:50 pm

    How about cats? I don’t think I would be particularly surprised to meet a cat called Cheryl or Glenn, but I’d assume it was short for a long and silly name (“Princess Cheryl Anne Chevrolet” or something). But maybe that’s just my cat naming style.

    I think cats do behave rather more like middle-aged humans than dogs do, so maybe we’re more comfortable giving them names that sound like middle-aged humans. Also, they don’t generally respond to their names very much, so there’s no need to worry about the embarrassment of calling out “Steven, stop licking your butt,” because it won’t work anyway.

    Personally, I’d love to name a dog Susan or Denise.

    Although I do wonder if anyone has yet named a puppy after the “dogs as people meme,” which tends to feature exactly this kind of name:

  • Lydia April 1, 2020 at 4:24 am

    We were going to name our dog Kevin, precisely to be contrarian, but she wound up being a girl. We went with Peggy instead, which suits her but is less intentionally strange.

  • Rach April 1, 2020 at 11:32 pm

    I love human names on dogs, and I think some of these are pretty great! Martin called Marty, Lawrence called Larry? Our pup is Sally, but if she’d been a boy she was going to be Douglas. I also find nickname-y dog names with a formal name to be pretty funny – e.g. my sister was going to name her dog Lewiston (after a city), nn Louie.

  • MissG April 8, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    @Lydia I work with a woman whose dog is called Kevin! I love it. He’s a sweet, dumb dog, and her stories about him are all the funnier for his offbeat name.

  • Ira Sass April 19, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    My roommate grew up with cats named Peter and Lori, which I always thought were hilarious cat names. I also knew a dog named Mary Louise.

  • Sophie June 15, 2020 at 8:08 am

    My dogs name is Keith and I’m just proud that his name made the top of the article.

  • Bdayz December 31, 2021 at 4:31 am

    I had a hamster whose name was Brendon. Why, I’m not sure.

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