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Good Dog, Bad Dog – It is all in the Name

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I grew up with a last name that made the teen boys in school snicker during roll call. (Don’t ask!).

After I graduated high school, I worked in a prestigious retail store, with a rather crusty old manager who hollered for me across the stock room, adding “Jesus Christ” as a prefix to my surname. It was his way of punctuating speech and assigning importance to his request. You can imagine that as a young person, I found this unsettling and confusing.

He would regularly thank me for my exemplary work and customer service but then suddenly bark at me and send mixed messages, with words out of context and inflection.

It was confusing to me and others around me.

Obviously, this was long before political correctness or HR policies. I am glad that we’ve made considerable progress in society since then (most days). It did not occur to dear old “Mr. Wilson” that his “get my attention” name and tone was inappropriate and baffling.

Thank goodness times have changed (and my name too) but these are just two examples of how names, and how they are used, influence and affect response and results.

A friend shared recently that her BFFF – best_forever_furry_friend - had two distinct names – a ‘good dog’ name plus ‘bad dog’ name.

She explained that experts and #DogWhisperers recommend that we should have a good dog name and a bad dog name or a Hero/Villian choice to avoid confusion for the dog.

I got it! I totally understand that if you use your dog’s name to praise AND issue commands, AND correct him, well, it will get very confusing (just like it did for me with Mr. Wilson!)

We spend hours caressing and coaxing, using our pet’s name and trying to build trust. You could blow a big hole in that trust when, for good reason, you must rain down some stern language for “bad dog” behavior!

Canine coaches also suggest that dog names should contain two syllables so that the dog can more easily distinguish it from commands which usually only contain one syllable; like Sit, Stay, Jump, Shake. Ideally, a dog’s name should contain hard consonants because dogs recognize hard consonants more easily.

The uniqueness of names is also important. When “christening” your BFFF, don’t use the names of other people in the household, names of friends or words that frequently come up in conversation or names that are similar in sound. We all know how confusing it is when there are two Sue’s or Hugh’s in a group!

A “third “pup” name is also worthy of thought – a neutral name that is used when you “talk “about” your dog” in their presence.

This neutral, “third-pup” ensures that your dog does not think you are giving them commands or correcting them when in conversation with other people about them. What you use as a neutral name is less important – it just must be different from their good and bad dog names.

I have a lot more to learn on this topic of the Perfect Name for my perfect pooch and it’s got me thinking about what I call some of my two-legged relationships! Hmmmmmmm! More on that later 😊

In the meantime, I’m on the epic journey to find my BFFF. So, when I meet them, you can be sure that I’ll be thinking about their perfect names – all one, two and three of them!

If you’re also looking for inspiration on names, you might want to drop by our friends at Outlaw Dog and Outlaw Kritters for creative ideas!


We’d love to know what your Good Dog/Bad Dog names are! Share them with us on Instagram and Facebook. And check out our Girl’s Best Friend tees at

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