Last month, a North America-wide pet sitting service called Rover.com released some interesting factoids about the state of dog names in Canada. Among their findings, the biggest pop culture draw was “The Handmaid’s Tale, especially the name Rita,” which charted a 250% increase over last year. More dogs were entitled Harry, Prince, George, Sophia and Charlotte, thanks to the recent rash of royal weddings and baby drops. And, of most importance to the veritable legions of Toronto Maple Leafs fans who dream that this year just might be The One, more pups are being christened Auston, Marleau and Maple.
The survey goes on to confirm the growing importance of dogs in our lives, with 94% of all of us viewing dogs as part of the family and 44% of millennials in particular seeing pets as surrogates to children. However, only “28% of all dog names are decidedly human,” which I found rather surprising since I can’t remember a time when I’ve met a new dog who isn’t called Cecil or Margie or something quite person-like.
If you’re in the position of needing a name for a canine, may I suggest three simple rules that will make your and your dog’s lives easier?
#1. Don’t decide on a name that sounds too similar to a command – “Down, Don!” “Come, Kami!” – or you’ll end up confusing your animal.
#2. Do select something that reflects your pup’s personality. Forget the kennel name and forego overly creative monikers that need to be explained every time you meet someone new. The former reflects sheer laziness; the latter too much thought put into the process. But I loved once knowing a peripatetic Brittany called Gulliver and an under-the-dinner-table cleaner named Hoover.
#3. Try to avoid pop cultural references, given that they date so fast – just ask any Britney. Of course, sometimes it can’t be helped: I never watched Game of Thrones so I had no idea that my choice of Ned, an old-fashioned diminution of Edward, was the name of one of the show’s characters. Live and learn. Or, in the case of the actor playing Ned Stark, get beheaded in the first season.
This leads me to reflects on how the name Rover became synonymous with Dog. Allow me to go all Sheldon on you for a moment: When Cecil Hepworth directed the 1905 blockbuster Rescued by Rover, he used his family’s Collie, Blair, as his lead. Blair, aka Rover, thus became the film world’s first genuine dog star. The movie, a stirring story of how Rover tracks down and saves the family’s toddler daughter from the nasty slum people who have stolen her, was a big hit. And the name Rover, hitherto not well used, was applied to so many dogs after that time that it stuck as a metaphor for Every-dog.