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Posted on Sun, Mar 4, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Changing attitudes about pet ownership influence trend in naming of cats and dogs

By Lorrie Shaw


Gretchen at 8 weeks

Lorrie Shaw | Contributor

When I first saw Gretchen, what struck me about the 5-and-a-half-week-old furball was her unabashed playful nature — and her striking features. She was no doubt part German Shepherd (the most common of prevailing breeds in mixed breed dogs currently), and of course Saint Bernard, along with a bit of Labrador somewhere in her bloodline.

I couldn’t decide on a name immediately and didn't want to.

I wanted to wait a few days and see how her personality unfolded. One's name should fit who you are.

Trying to stay true to her breed's origins, tops on my list were Greta, Liesel and Ingrid. But the name ‘Gretchen’ seemed to suit her well and still does. (Although I have countless nicknames for her, as I do all of our pets.)

It just never occurred to me to name my new pup with a traditional ‘dog’ name, like ‘Shadow’ or ‘Goldie’, although I don’t think that it would have been out of the question.

The trend for many years was to name pets with monikers that aren’t associated as being human, necessarily, like ‘Spot’ or ‘Fluffy’; in fact the name of a dog or cat had a tendency to be lent from a physical characteristic. Our Silver was named aptly because of his coloration, and Bruiser was named before he came in our lives. (His name is not indicative of his personality, by the way.)

Favorite pastimes have proven to be inspiring, and some choose favorite vacation spots that remind them of happy times in their life when choosing a name.

A canine client who has since passed — a chocolate Labrador who had a certain joie de vive — was called Java. And I once knew a dog named Poo.

In the past, people have had fun with their pet’s names, deriving them from a favorite TV or movie character or even their favorite alcoholic beverage.

The tide is turning now, and in large part, names for pets are leaning toward being more like those of humans. When you think about it, it’s not all that surprising: attitudes about sharing life with pets are becoming more inclusive and mindful, and they are more like members of the family rather than simply being just animals.

Names that are short and cute but somewhat old-fashioned are popular.

"Parents are giving pets the more extreme versions of their kids' names," says Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard.

"While they're happy to name their children Leo and Max, they aren't quite ready for Lulu or Milo for their kids."

Here are some of the trendiest pet names right now — is your pet’s name on the list?

Female: Lola, Stella, Luna, Izzy, Lulu, Ellie, Piper, Mia, Zoey and Penny.

Male: Bentley, Cooper, Diesel, Louie, Teddy, Marley, Henry, Tucker, Dexter and Ziggy.

Click here to read more from an article on Vetstreet.

How did you choose your pet’s name?

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly.



Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 1:56 a.m.

My current lot of suspects are named: Derby (because he ran circles around us), Roxie (her previous owner named her), and Kander (named after a mountain valley we always wanted to take our dogs). The cats have just as various names: Oeschi is named after a mountain lake, Suki because my husband liked it, and Bunny because she was just so cute like a rabbit. I guess we didn't know about the old fashion names fad.

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

Those names are perfect! I love the way that things work out sometimes when it comes to naming pets... the times in our life, our hobbies, if there are kids involved. Thanks for sharing yours!

Ann English

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 12:24 a.m.

Most likely, when you get two pets at a time, and you name them after a famous human pair, the names will be different from those given to animals bought singly. Bud and Louie, Laurel and Hardy, Sasha and Isis might not have anything to do with a seven-week-old and nine-week-old puppy pair's looks or personalities. One puppy who got lost (and later returned) was named "Arrow," by a boy who found her because of the white arrowhead-shaped spot on the top of her yellow head. But she lived twelve full years (long for a Labrador) unlike the black Labrador purchased at the same time, who lived only nine months. They were named after a comedy pair.

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Yes! I know several people who have done that. It's fun to have that daily dose of whimsy in one's life. Thanks for bringing that tradition up!

Jen Eyer

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

We named our new golden pup Disco. It was our 8-year-old daughter's idea — and quite a proud moment in parenting for me, I must say. As a family, we love dancing together, and I have wonderful memories of watching my parents disco dance when I was a child. His full name, in keeping with the breeder's tradition, is: Tradewind's Solid Gold Dancer, aka Disco.

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 2:43 p.m.

Jen: I love that! It's such a thoughtful, fun name - and fun to say! How can you not smile when you say "Disco!". :)

Monica Milla

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

Lord, could we BE any more Ann Arbor, lol?! When I named my cat Penny in 1988, everyone was like "Huh?" Funny it's a popular name now. James came named James and it fits him. Fiona was a stray and her name came to me immediately (this was BEFORE Shrek, thankyouverymuch--not that i don't like the movie, but still!). And Cleo came as Cleo, and I just modified it to Cleome because no other name seemed to fit her. Since I was a kid, I always liked "real" names for pets, instead of Fluffy, Spot, Mittens, etc.

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

Monica: I think Penny is a sweet name for a cat; it just fits. James is such a cool name for a cat... distinguished, sturdy. Cleome, well... that's just fitting. Such a resilient, dignified name. (And clever, considering your interests!)

Ann English

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

Another pet named Penny? My sister and brother-in-law were given a German shepherd named Penny in the late 1970s. Seeing it is a popular name today, I thought, "They were ahead of their time."


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

Our first golden retriever was named Jason by my husband (from the ancient Greek story of the golden fleece). Only a few people got the reference. And it was when jason was one of THE most popular boy names and associates would get very insulted that we had named our dog the same as their baby. Go figure! Our current golden is called Jr because our sons wanted to name him Jason--but I couldn't attach the same name to another dog. We compromised with Jason Junior (though each of their official names were even more different).

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

bluehoo: I love that! It's funny that some people get offended by the notion that a pet has the same name as a baby. I recall years ago, I had a client - a 22 year-old cat - named Mike. So cute. I know that people who don't know me well will often get a bit confused when I'll say something like, 'Oh, my Gretchen does that...". They usually say, "Your daughter?" :)

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

Our rescue dog came to us with the name, Sarah. Since all of our animals have had middle names, we added Jean in honor of the woman who saved her. Middle names are important, so your pet knows when you are serious about whatever you are asking them to do. Works with kids, works with pets. And when they get the whole three names, they KNOW they are in trouble. Sarah Jean usually responds very quickly to the use of both her names. Now, the kids.................

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

Jen: It's funny how that helps!

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

Elaine: Funny that you should say that. Our pets have middle names and I do use them when they are in trouble. Gretchen's is "Louise" (it just seemed to fit) and in the rare cases that she misbehaves, I always exclaim, "Gretchen Louise!". More often, though, her middle name becomes a variation of nicknames that she has: LuLu, LuLu Dog, Gretchie Loo, etc. I know what you mean when you exclaim both names - that gets their attention quickly!

Jen Eyer

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

I never thought of it consciously before, but yes! When our Bailey used to get in trouble, we'd use the full "Bailey Eyer!" to get his attention.


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

When I was selecting a puppy from a litter of Chessy-doodles I was immediately attracted to the large, brown, goofy one. His energy and personality was so over-the-top that it reminded me of Jim Hensen's muppets. Namely, Fozzie Bear. I brought the dear pup home and tried to resist naming him after a muppet but it fit him so well. So, there it is. I'm the proud owner of a very large, very real Fozzie Bear. And to confirm my choice, many people say, "He looks just like Fozzie Bear", before I've had a chance to tell them his name.

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

RunsWithScissors: I've seen the photos of Fozzie and I can attest that yes, his name fits him well! Adorable!


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

As a neighbor of The Foz I can attest to his charm. He always has a smile in his eyes when he pads down the sidewalk which he owns, of course.


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.

Adorable picture of baby Gretchen!

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

Thank you!


Sun, Mar 4, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

Grey Mist's Buran Bree was name thar by me for the following reasons. Grey mist's is the line of Malamutes she comes from...the breeder asked me to put that in her name, so he can keep track of his dogs...Championship show dog line. She was given to me by a friend who is a rocket scientist (I am not kidding). He is a Professor of Rocket Science and Program Director at MTU. He used to be a neighbor with 3 Mals of his own. He called me from the UP and informed me that I needed a Malamute. He said they were a bit pricey coming from this breeder...I hemmed and hawed. He said. Don't worry, It is my gift to you. I paid only shipping. ANYWAY, he worked with a lot of Russian scientists. There was a grounded Russian shuttle named Buran. My friend asked him what that meant. The scientist said "Big snow!" So my friend named his dog Buran. Buran was enormous...but a gentle soul. We all loved him, but he developed a seizure disorder, and had to be put down. So we added Buran in his honor. Bree's call name came from the horse I owned prior to Sunny, a gorgeous Egyptian Arabian Mare named Bree. But what really makes this funny, is that the breeder and his wife named all of the pups after Desperate Housewives characters (a show I had never seen. He sent me a picture of all the pups with their names. I said:"BREE! Absolutely Bree!".

Lorrie Shaw

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

Wow! What a story, julieswhimsies. I love all of the elements that came into naming Bree. So sweet! :)