Q: We are adopting a dog with the name Fluffy. No one in the family really likes the name. She is four years old and was given to the rescue by her original owners, so we know this has been her name her whole life. Do you think it is okay to change it?
A: Absolutely! Just because you’re adopting a dog with a name you’re not fond of doesn’t mean you have to keep it. Don’t feel your new dog can’t learn a new name. A dog or puppy of any age can learn a brand new name as long as everyone in the family is consistent on using it along with lots of praise and treats in the beginning.
Fluffy doesn’t really understand the concept of a name, but she should know when you say it you want her attention. The good thing is she can learn a new name rather quickly and easily.
Everyone in the house should spend the first few days armed with treats. When someone wants her attention they should cheerfully call out the new name and when she looks at them, be sure to praise her enthusiastically and give a tasty treat. Always be sure to use the name you choose in a happy tone of voice. Never use it to scold her because you want her to associate her new name with a positive experience, not punishment or unhappiness. Make sure everyone in the house knows this.
So, in my opinion, go ahead and change Fluffy’s name to something the entire family likes. Before long she will realize hearing that word means great things are coming. Dogs should think responding to their name is the best thing in the world.
I am sure in no time your new furry friend will joyfully acknowledge whatever name you choose to call her.
Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].