how to name a family pet

How to Name a Family Pet

The Problem

Choosing a name for a family pet is a daunting task. Unlike naming a baby human, everyone in the family is entitled to some amount of input. A method for choosing a name must be decided upon and agreed to by all parties, or mass chaos could ensue and feelings could be hurt.

In Depth

The Simmons children returned home from school one snowy January afternoon when they were summoned to the living room by Dad. “Kids! Come here! There’s something your mother and I would like to show you.”

15-year-old Caitlin, 12-year-old Marcus, and 7-year-old Jacob raced to the living room to find a fluffy yellow lab puppy with a red bow around her neck. The kids all dove in to pet and play.

“Thank you, thank you!” the kids yelled as they rolled around on the floor. The puppy bounced about, toppling over one kid before climbing onto another. “I love you, oh, you’re so cute!” the kids wailed. Laughter filled the room. Mom and Dad smiled and embraced. The three kids, normally at odds with one another, were ecstatic and playing together.

That fun was about to come to a crashing halt with the asking of one innocent question.

“What’s his name?” Caitlin asked.

“Well, for starters, it’s a girl dog,” Dad said. “Mrs. Opsahl was calling her Missy Tickles, but the name is up to you three to decide. Figure it out amongst yourselves.”

Dad was basically kicking himself as he said the words. He should have known what was coming.

“I want to name her Arya,” Caitlin said, holding the pup up to her nose for a nuzzle. “She’s so brave and powerful, just like Arya Stark from Game of Thrones.”

“That’s a stupid name!” yelled Jacob, snatching the dog away and twirling her in a circle. “We should call her Skye, like the one girl dog from Paw Patrol!”

“We’re not naming her after anyone from a show,” Marcus snipped. “We’ll call her Melania, after our fearless first lady.”

Dad couldn’t believe he hadn’t foreseen this argument coming. The puppy went off to chew on the side of the couch while the kids argued and clawed at each other. “Arya!” “Skye!” “Melania!” the kids yelled. Fists flung, hair was pulled, and tears were shed before Mom and Dad could separate the kids.

“If you kids are going to be so ungrateful, I’ll name her myself!” Dad said. “From now on she’ll be known as… Puppy. Puppy Louise. That’s final.”

“No!!!!” the kids yelled. “That name’s way worse than any of ours!”

“Are we really going to call that dog Puppy?” Mom asked Dad. “What if she lives to be like 17? We’re going to be calling out ‘Puppy’ every time we scold her, or call her name at the dog park?”

Mom and Dad thought for a moment. How could they let these little brats choose a name for the dog that wouldn’t result in a fight? Here are some ideas to consider.

  • Has the family had any previous pets? If so, who got to name the most recent one? If it was the oldest child, perhaps the next oldest can go.
  • Each family member could put their name choice in a hat and agree that whatever name is drawn will be the dog’s name.
  • The name could be put to a vote. This gets a little tricky, however, when so few people are involved. With the advent of social media, an unbiased poll could be posted by one of the parents with the public voting for a name.
  • Agree that whoever chooses the name is in charge of most of the crappy dog responsibilities, like the training and walking and poo-picking.
  • Have the dog stand in the middle of the room, and each contestant sits in a circle around the dog, yelling their preferred name. Whichever person the dog approaches is the winner.
  • Each kid choose a name, and the parents use pieces of each of the names to form some bizarre conglomeration that appeases everyone. For instance, with Arya, Skye, and Melania, the dog’s name could be Skarlanya.
  • The dog could remain nameless until everyone has lost interest.
  • A third party could name the dog. “Well since you kids can’t agree, we’ll call Grandma and she’ll name it!”
  • Turn on the TV or radio and agree that the first name spoken shall be the dog’s name. Just make sure the TV isn’t tuned to a Nazi film of some sort.
  • Do some sort of challenge, like whichever kid does the best job of cleaning their room gets to name the dog. Or whoever gets the most A’s on their upcoming report card gets to name it.
  • Likewise, do some sort of game of chance, like rolling dice or drawing a card. Winner gets to name the dog.
  • Make the kids come to an agreement, no matter how long it takes. It also teaches them a valuable lesson about cooperation! There must be some name everyone can get on board with.
  • Let the kid who’s most likely to throw a tantrum name the dog to save everyone some grief.
  • Stick with or revert to the dog’s previous name, if it had one.
  • If all else fails, just man up and pick the best name. “Well, we definitely aren’t calling her Melania in this affluent neighborhood; we’ll be ostracized. Aria and Skye are both acceptable names, but since Skye is already a cartoon dog, we’ll go with Aria to avoid any confusion.” Case closed.

Of course, there are some caveats to these rules. For instance, what if there were multiple pets to name? Or what if the pet was purchased with someone specific in mind? And most important, what if the dog already has a name?

No matter which route you choose, someone is bound to have hard feelings. Unless you bought a pet for each child, everyone is going to want to call it something different. It’s up to the parents to decide how the name will be chosen.

In the Simmons family’s case, the family agreed to turn on the TV to the news and choose the first female name spoken, which was unfortunately Stormy, after porn actress Stormy Daniels who was in the news with the whole Trump cover-up saga. “No one tells why or how we chose this name!” Mom reminded the kids as they cuddled little Stormy.

My Hot Take

Well, who hasn’t been there before? When we got a little Sheltie pup back in 1994 I demanded we name her Blizzard. My brother and sister agreed on Simba, thanks to Lion King’s popularity. So naturally, it was 2 vs. 1. Of all the dogs, cats, and farm animals we had back in South Dakota, I never truly got to name one solely on my own. To this day, I have still never outright named a pet. I’m a little bitter about that.


Can’t decide on how to name a new family pet? Find a game, challenge, or arbitrary way of choosing the name to avoid hurting feelings.


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