There’s not just one way to pick pet names

By Sharna Johnson

CMI columnist


Thank goodness for the “try again” button.

Next: “Cosmo” — the suggestion for an unfriendly, lazy cat suffering gender ambiguity.

It can be hard to come up with a moniker for a new family pet.

The responsibility can even be a little overwhelming at times in the search for a name that conveys creativity, personality, originality and deep meaning all in one word that rolls off the tongue with ease.

Online name generators, such as the one offered by Friskies cat food, are certainly one way to pick a name for a pet.

Then there are other methods.

One can open a baby name book and close their eyes and place a finger on the page, though of course, the family must be prepared for anything from Bertha to Xander.

Or there is the hat trick, shaking up little slips of paper with names on them and randomly drawing one.

The observation method is also a tried and true one — taking time to get to know the new family member until a name reveals itself, a method that is not without risk as evidenced on occasion with dogs named “Dog” or “Jerk.”

Letting the kids do the dirty work is a fun way to go about the chore and can result in some fun names. Granted, as you stand in the yard and yell “Come here Fairy Sparkles” you will forever remember why youngin’s don’t get to make important decisions until they are older.

Objects are always an option.

A reported 72 parents chose to name their (human) babies “Cheese” in 2013, children who will find themselves in the company of Apples, Tators, a slew of states, cities, compass points and other creatively named kiddos when the first day of kindergarten rolls around – so feel free to be creative with the dog.

Truck, Hammer, Fork, Pizza, Kalamazoo … Whatever you are comfortable hollering in the yard and or park.

Names associated with sports teams are another way to go for the family of loyal fans who wish to show their pride.

And there is always the historical or sentimental route — nothing wrong with an ode to “Mandela,” or a classic like “Lassie” or “Felix.”

Aside from the consideration that you must be willing and able to speak the name in polite company, tell it to people when needed and sometimes shout it through the neighborhood in the dead of night, the act of naming pets has traditionally been a fun exercise in self-expression because there really are no rules.

Most people continue to play it safe, sticking with the more traditional, human-like names, according to the 2013 list of top dog names from

For males, the tried and tested Max topped the list with Charlie, Buddy, Jack, Cooper, Rocky, Toby, Bear, Jake, Teddy, Buster, Tucker, Duke, Oliver, Bailey, Riley, Milo, Dexter, Oscar and Lucky making up the top 20.

Pooches of the fairer sex were led by “Bella” with Lucy, Daisy, Molly, Lola, Maggie, Sadie, Chloe, Sophie, Bailey, Roxy, Lily, Coco, Stella, Penny, Gracie, Zoey, Abby and Luna as trailing favorites.

Sure, the act of naming starts the relationship with a new pet.

And whatever the choice is, whether made by the whole family, drawn from a hat, passed down from pets of yesteryear or picked from a list of popular names, the moniker will be spoken, whispered, shouted and written for around a decade or so.

Fear not, they will learn to answer even if you settle with, “Dog” or “Cat” because in the long run, it’s the why and the how you call them that will have the most meaning.


Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at:

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