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What’s in a Dog’s Name?

Name Him Captain America or Magnificent, But He’ll End Up as Snorty McDingbat — or Worse.

Dog-lovers, admit it. You spend all kinds of time thinking up the perfect name for your new dog. Something that fits her appearance, her demeanor, her esprit de dog. 

And then she is only called that at the vet. 

To confirm this, I conducted a highly scientific experiment. OK, no, I didn’t … I just asked a bunch of people to fess up to what they actually call their beloved hounds. Here are the results, which entirely support my original hypothesis. What the canines in question think about this remains a mystery.

Starting with my own recent rescue, a Manchester terrier officially named Dexter: Snuggle Pup, Bunny Boy, Mr. McPlexter, Monsieur Dog. (Those are the ones I’m willing to cop to.)

Bay Woof editor Judy Gallman’s husky, Wiley, is also known as Wile E. Coyote, Wye-Wye, Husky-bean, Wiley-Huskyson, Wye-Whee, and Doghead.

Some people provided context for the evolution of the nicknames. Elizabeth Whipple wrote that her friend’s rescue Malamute Sofi is called Sofa, because that’s the first place she headed for when she was brought to her new forever home, despite human cries of dismay. Jan Mignone adopted a pit bull from the Martinez shelter who was already being called Gemma, so she kept the name, but, “I call her GG and Baby Boo.”

Li Zephyr’s Dobie/shepherd, originally named Tyger, became Ragu. “Managed to crawl up onto the table and consume a bowl of Ragu spaghetti sauce when she was a pup. Long fur, orange muzzle, so attractive,” reported Li.

Ellen Seskin told me, “My Labs were Sparticus (aka Pooty) and Jupiter (aka Poopy). Sparticus was very smart, but at the end of Puppy I, Jupiter had barely mastered “sit.” We hired Francis Metcalf, now known as a circus dog trainer, but then a trainer for “Dodo Doggies” (another nickname). After only a few weeks, he gave them the best names: Smarticus and Stupider.”

Ellen continued, “Brock, our current dog, is named Brock O. Lee, which is why his name sometimes sounds like a vegetable. He is also Brockolana, Brockolini, Brockolani, and many other pasta-sounding names.”

Some names spring from obvious behavior/appearance/personal hygiene traits. Madeline Marrow’s dog Molly is known as Bonehead, Molly MauMau, and Snuffle Bunny, the last because “she lightly snores and snorts.” Ten-year-old rescue Chihuahua Diamond responds to Booger, wrote Patrick Ocean. Ea Raygosa’s Bandita is commonly known as Dinky Dodo. “Ella goes by ‘Smelly’ pretty much 100 percent of the time,” admitted Josephine Stoddard. And Emily Brockman remembered affectionately, “We called our big, 100-pound English Lab, whose real name was Jack, ‘Hammy,’ short for ‘Hammy Headed Labrador.’” And it may be apparent why Milly Frederick’s dog Tandee goes by Tandamonium.

In some cases, there is a medical connection. Madeline Marrow has a doctor pal whose Angus is now Angstrom. And Shaun Partlow sent this: “We have two dogs, Moxie and Zika. Zika was named almost a year before the virus hit the news, I swear! 

“Zika is pronounced ‘Zeeka’ and all the nicknames have the long e sound. Zeke, Zikadoodle, Zekester (middle e silent), Zika monster … and Little Miss Buttinsky.

“Moxie is also called Moxie-pot (I have no idea why), Moxifloxacin, Moxytocin, Moxacillin (if you notice a theme, yes, I’m in the medical profession), Moxipius (second i pronounced as long e), and Moximillian.

“No wonder they look so confused all the time!”

Some dogs start off with dignified monikers, only to find themselves at the mercy of their owner’s imaginations. Chance, belonging to DJ Leland, is now Mr. Fluffy, while Truman, who resides with Kaity Marchesi, responds (or doesn’t) to Tru Tru, Truey, and the more respectful Mr. President. Sarita Moreno originally chose Bentley, but has now opted for Bubba, Bubbacito or Bubbalicious Baby.

And some owners just seem to adore their pups so much they can’t help calling them … well, let’s just say, lovingly silly names.

Lorien Louise’s Shade is Sexy Beast. Chrissie Prehn’s Sunny is Woofer Bear. Joni Brace’s Bella, Noodle, and Blanca are Bella Baby, Doodle, and Princess Marshmallow. And get this list from Nisi Cobanoglu: “Josie: Lu Lu Jo Jo, Lewster Lu, Lu Mammas; Daisy: Day Day, Crazy Daisy; and Doobster: Doobs, Doobie, Stinky, Fatso, Silly Boy, Doobie Do, Bear, Doodie, Handsome Boy, Pappa, Doobster Dooo (when he’s not listening and in trouble).”

Perhaps my favorite response is this one from Myra Rubio. “So, I have two dogs. One is a female pit bull named Lady and the other is a Chihuahua mix named Rocky.

“Lady’s nickname is Chata, or, like my kids call her, Lady Gaga. Rocky, well, he’s short and chubby, so sometimes I call him in Spanish albóndiga con patas (meatball with feet), Chaparro (short), Prieto (he’s black, that’s why).

“I think our nicknames make more sense in Spanish than English. But they understand both languages!”

And don’t all dogs understand the language of love? Whatever we call them, they can hear that. Leave us a comment on your dog’s nicknames on 

Janis Hashe’s dogs have always been the inspiration for multitudes of nicknames. That’s what happens when you live with a writer. They have borne being called “Neeny Beeny,” “Mr. Prancealot,” and “Blondissimo” with the charming forbearance of their kind. She sometimes wonders if any of them have had nicknames for her, and if so, would she really want to know what they are … “Ridiculous Hooman” comes to mind.

Photo: Rin Tin Tin was called Rinty by his owner, Lee Duncan. Jack Warner of Warner Bros. nicknamed  Rin Tin Tin the ‘The Mortgage Lifter’ becasue he starred 25 films each of which was enormously popular. 

Main article photo by: Photo of Rin Tin Tin from the 1929 film Frozen River