By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance
Years ago, before I work in the pet insurance industry, my friend Lauren adopted two female cats who she named Lily and Pumpkin. Imagine her surprise when the vet told her they couldn’t spay Lily because “she” was actually a “he”! Lauren opted not to change Lily’s name even though he was a big handsome tomcat, but I think many pet owners would have.
On a similar note, a quick poll on the Pets Best Insurance Facebook page revealed that one of the first things new owners do (aside from purchase pet insurance) is changed their pets’ names. And I’ve done this as well. My dog Jayda’s shelter name was Caroline. It’s pretty, but it didn’t fit her personality and wasn’t good for quick, firm commands. Not to criticize – shelter workers are charged with naming hundreds of pets a year, and I’m sure coming up with names perfect to each personality isn’t high on their list of priorities. Still, most manage to be pretty cute. Simply Cats recently had an adorable litter of breakfast-themed kitties, including Syrup and Pancake.
So whether you’ve adopted a shelter pet or just regret the first name you chose, here are some tips on how to change your pet’s name without causing an identity crisis in your pet.
Let’s be honest – kittens aren’t likely to come when their names are called. Instead, they’ll run toward a crinkling food bag, a toy, a wiggling finger or the sing-song “kitty-kitty-kitty.” If you decide to change your kitten’s name, you can expect to do it without much hassle. Simply say your kitty’s new name while doing something that will attract her, then repeat her name, pet her and praise her when she comes. Be consistent and in time, Princess will forget she was ever called Gizmo.
Puppies, Cats and Dogs
There are two techniques to use when changing the name of a pet who already responds to one name.
Cold Turkey: Simply stop using the old name and switch exclusively to the new name. Use the same commands and tone of voice, and when you’re outside, keep your dog on leash until he or she has fully learned the new name and will come when called. You don’t want to revert to the old name in emergencies – this will only confuse your pet.
If you (and everyone in your household) can be consistent, cold turkey may work for you. This is also the better option if you’re going from “Mr. Snuggly Pup Woofle Pants” to “Spot”, since you won’t likely want to combine those names for any period of time.
Middle Name Game: Move your pet’s old name to the middle, and say the new name first. In my case, I could have used “Jayda Caroline”. Your pet will respond to the middle name for sure, and over time, will start to associate the first name with being called as well. When you see your pet is responding as soon as you start saying the first name, you should be able to drop the old name without any problems.
No matter how you choose to change, remember to give lots of praise every time the dog responds to being called, even if it’s just a look or an ear twitch at first.
Have you ever changed a pet’s name? Let us know about it in the comments. And remember that as a pet owner, you will need to ensure you’ve selected the name you want to keep for the duration of your pet’s life before enrolling your pet in a pet insurance policy.