‘Belvedere?! Come here, boy!’

One of the most consistent pieces of advice I found was to stick to names of one or two syllables, which quickly catch a puppy’s attention.

via The Art of Naming a Dog – NYTimes.com.

It says here that there is something ridiculous about worrying too much about what to name your dog. I say this because dogs do not speak English. They really don’t. I have one. Believe me.

People will tell you that you should choose a name that is simple, as expressed by the advice excerpted above. People will tell you to use hard syllables. People will tell you to use sibilant ones. I am telling you, Relax.

Scene from the Warner Brothers cartoon, “Dog Gone South.”

Scene from the Warner Brothers cartoon, “Dog Gone South.”

The No. 1 thing a dog listens for is a friendly, familiar voice, period. What makes it work for the dog is that it is never only listening. I read a book once in which the author referred to dogs as “master observers.” Which sounds stupid, and which always makes me laugh. But I believe it is true: Your dog knows about half of what you are planning to communicate before you even deliver any of your carefully chosen, vetted-by-TV-personalities commands.

Try this experiment with a friend’s dog. In as warm and jovial a tone as you can muster, call to the dog in gibberish. Better, call to the dog using insults. As long as your appear to be welcoming, the dog doesn’t care what you say.

My dog, who is basically a simple-minded, food-obsessed nervous wreck, knows when it is time to go outside, to play with a ball and to go to bed. Most of the time, I don’t address her by name; I say, “C’mon.” She gets it.

But of course I have a rule for naming a dog. I prefer names with a Southern pedigree. My first dog was Scarlett. Dog No. 2 is Maybelle. I keep joking with my wife that I will name Dog No. 3, if it’s a boy, Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard — and I am not joking. (The woman at the vet’s office will probably misspell it, anyway.)

Really, my rule for naming a dog is, Choose a name with dignity. Mostly this is for the dog. Here is an animal that has to sleep on the floor; is compelled to defecate out of doors, in front of people, and never exactly where it wants to; and is served the same bland food every day. The least you can do is ignore the impulse to name it Snickers. Partly the idea of dignity is for you, the owner. Imagine yourself standing in slippers, in two feet of snow, calling to your dog as it romps disobediently up and down the street. What do you want your neighbors to hear?

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