How late is too late to change a dog's name?

We are meeting a lady this weekend who’s fostering a couple of rescue dogs, and I strongly suspect those doggies will be coming to live with us. :slight_smile: They are about a year and a half old. I don’t know yet how long they’ve been with the lady, or how long they’ve gone by their current names, but what if we wanted to call them something else? Do you think it would cause them undue confusion?

sigh If they were cats, it wouldn’t matter…

In my entire adult life I’ve only had cats, so I may not be the best person to answer this.

It seems to me that most pets (dogs and cats) have more than one name anyway. A dog’s name might be Abraham, but his people will also call him Abe and Snugglebutt and The Snack King and the like, not to mention all the times he’s called Bad Dog* or Good Puppy.

I suspect you can just change the dog’s name and after a few days of using the new name when setting down the food dish or asking about going for a walk, the dog will start answering to its new name.

  • We have long thought we should have named the cats Get Down and Bad Kitty, since that’s what we mostly call them.

No problem. It may take a while - depending on the breed. But with consistent repetition, it will stick.

IME, much of dog communication is with tone, gestures, and just getting the dog familiar with what you want. Even tho I talk to my dog and give him commands all the time, I’m not sure when the last time is that I called him by his name in an attempt to elicit certain behavior. 99% of the time, if I want my dog to come, I can get as good a response if I call “Come” or even “Hey!”, rather than his name.

His name isn’t a command, tho in certain situations, it can get his attention. But normally, the sound of your voice will be sufficient to get his/her attention. If you’re just talking to the dog, it doesn’t matter whether you call them by their name, or “good dog” or “shithead” as the situation may call for.

Dogs dont really recognize their name as such, it more the tone, etc.

Just keep the name about the same length and tone.

Sure? Dogs wait patiently for their name to be called - YouTube

Agree they absolutely recognize their name.

The only time I did not change the name of my rescue pups was with the blind one we adopted. Her name isn’t necessarily what we would have chosen, but it offered her a sense of security in a somewhat confusing time and she didn’t need the extra challenge of adjusting to a name change.

We just got a rescue pup this week. He’s already comfy with his new name (Pixel! the wonder Chi-hooooo-hooooo mutt). Use the name every time you address them. High happy voice. If you really want to speed it along, you can do short training sessions:

[li]Call name[/li][li]If dog reacts to the name give it a treat[/li][li]If dog doesn’t immediately react, then repeat name with an attention getting noise, like a tongue click or a finger snap.[/li][li]As soon as the dog reacts, treat[/li][li]Repeat a few times[/li][/ol]

Do that a few times a day, and keep using the name all the time when talking to the dog and they’ll have their name down in no time.

They know their names just fine.
You can take 3 dogs, have them laying down together and casually say each ones name in turn and see each one respond when its name is said but ignore you when you say the others names.

But dogs also seem to have this weird ability to understand you are addressing them even if your suddenly calling them numbnuts instead of rover.

K9 Clairvoyance?

IME, dogs adapt pretty quickly. I’ve had dogs respond to a new name within a day. As others have said, the dog knows when you’re calling it. My dog’s name is Angel, but sometimes I’ll call her “Angle” just for fun. It doesn’t cause her any confusion. My previous dog was originally named Brutus, but I wasn’t crazy about that name. I changed it to Brewster because it was more friendly sounding. It helped that the names sounded similar.

My dogs will respond to “Monkey Tits” if I’ve got snackys.

They won’t respond to anything if they are chasing a rabbit.

Probably good to call 'em whatever you want. Just give 'em time to learn. They’re pretty smart critters, I’m finding out.

Back when had a whole tribe of dogs, I’d go to yell at one of them for doing something they shouldn’t be doing. Like a parent with too many kids, I’d usually yell the wrong name and would end up going down the list until I got the right one. The ones who were not doing anything naughty would give me a ‘huh? watcha yelling at me for?’ hurt look.
Dogs for sure know their name.
Also, a very good trainer told me never use your dog’s name when you are scolding them, it will make them ashamed of their name.
Most of mine were strays and I had no idea what their names were anyway.
All of them had nick names that they answered to as well.

I think if you want to change their names, call them a combo of old name/new name and then gradually drop the old name.

I’ve had a bunch of foster dogs over the last few years. Some came with known names, but some had been strays, so they came with whatever name the rescue gave them. If I liked it, I used it, but often it got shortened or changed outright.

One dog had been called Buddy by the shelter, Chase by the foster before me and Rowdy by the rescue. I didn’t like any of those names, he didn’t respond to Chase, so I called him Vito. It suited him. His adopters liked Rowdy, so he now answers to Rowdy. Jack, on the other hand, looked like a Jack, responded to it, and having come from a bad situation, it seemed best to just stick with Jack.

Change the name to whatever appeals to you. It doesn’t have to sound the same, the dog will figure it out, especially if you follow Sunny Daze’s suggestions.

Do dogs know their names? I’m not convinced, but it is fine quibble to split. I’m of the school that dogs learn to recognize the particular sound that comes out of a human’s mouth when that human wants it to do something. Does that equate to a name? I suppose. It’s not like the dog will confuse that particular sound for anything else, but I don’t get the feeling that your average canine lays around thinking, “My name is Spot. That is what I am called. Spot. Spot is my name.” I think it’s closer to, “hey, there’s that sound again. Ima goin’ to get my ears scratched el fucking pronto.”

What I like is that they also get to know what you expect of them. I generally don’t expect too terribly much from my dogs, but what I DO expect, I expect 100% w/o fail. Rarely, I’ll screw up - maybe call for my dog, simply not realizing where he is. The dog will give me that look like - “You REALLY mean that? Because we BOTH know I’m fine here!” When that happens, I hope I always switch to “Who’s a good boy!” instead of insisting that he obey an unnecessary command.

I feel like tone of voice, along with a recognized name, are what dogs recognize. If I said a different name when calling my dog but said it in the exact same tone and inflection as his normal name, he’d still respond the same way. This is just an anecdote tho.

Well, great! Name change it is then. It seems this is a topic the Dopers can all agree on. :eek:

About half of the “success stories” I see on my Facebook news feed from the two rescues I follow indicate that the dog or cat’s name had been changed after adoption. So I suspect it’s common and easy, like brainstall’s post indicates.

By the way, their current names are Happy and J.J. Tolerable, but not as awesome as “Monkey Tits”.

We found a stray collie a few years ago and named him “Jack.” A week after taking him in we tracked down his “bio family” and found that his name was “Burberry.”

His family turned out to be wonderful people and had been looking for Jack/Burberry for months. In the meantime, they had to relocate to an apartment that didn’t allow doggies so they bequeathed him to us and we keep in close touch.

Turns out Jack was 12 years old (we thought he was middle-aged). He made the switch over to his new name with ease – he’s now 15 years old and going strong!

Chiming in late, with my work with rescues and at my local shelter, I agree, dogs names get changed all the time and it’s just fine. In fact, sometimes due to typos or other errors, a dog is called by two different names at the same time. We had a dog in our program we were calling Pearl. One day another shelter volunteer who was not part of our program asked:

“Did you guys already work with Lacey?”
“No, I worked with Pearl.”
“Who’s that?”
“The big while dog in A-9.”
“No, that’s Lacey”
“The big goofy pit bull?”
“Oh, well she goes by Pearl, too, I guess”

Turns out the kennel card said Pearl and the info sheet said Lacey. The dog really didn’t care. She answered to both names. I’m sure when she was adopted her name was changed to something else.

One dog to another: “What’s your name?”

“I’m not sure. I think it’s ‘Dammit’.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because my owner is always telling me, ‘Lie down, dammit!’ ‘Off the couch, dammit!’ ‘Shut up, dammit!’”