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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

The name accompanies you and your pet for a long time, so it should be well thought. It is mainly used to distinguish the members of a social group. Here you will learn what you should pay attention to when choosing a dog or cat name, how your pet learns to react to it and how you can change the name.

Choosing a name – what to look out for?

If your pet comes from a breeder, it probably already has a name. There they are baptised with the first letter of the respective litter. So the first litter gets names beginning with A, the second with B and so on.

If you take over the animal from a shelter, for example, it probably also already has a name.

Tips for naming:

  • It is best to get to know your new family member first. Often, a suitable name is determined by the character, the appearance or a special feature of the animal.
  • Short names with a vowel at the end are more suitable for pets. If you prefer a long, unusual name, a nickname would be good to make it easier to call your pet. One to two syllables are ideal.
  • Also avoid signals that sound similar to the name. If your pet’s name is Tom, for example, choose “Here” rather than “Come” as a recall.
  • Also, similar names should not be used in close proximity to avoid confusion.

What you should watch out for:

  • As long as your pet is not yet called by its name, avoid changing nicknames so that it does not get confused by the confusion.
  • All family members should have agreed on one name.
  • Especially in the beginning, only say the name in connection with positive things and avoid saying it angrily or scolding. After all, your pet should be happy to listen to the name and not have to fear punishment.
  • Do not wear out names. Once your pet has learned its name and is happy to listen to it, be careful not to say it all the time, especially without relevance, as this will quickly turn the name into a “noise” and your pet will no longer respond to it.
dog harness that fits your dog

Teaching a name – this is how it is learned

  • Find a quiet place without many distractions.
  • Now say the chosen name in a friendly, cheerful voice and reward your pet. Treats are the best way to do this.
  • Your pet will quickly understand that his attention is worthwhile and will respond more and more quickly to his name.
  • Do this exercise (about 10 times a day, so as not to overtax the animal) every day.
  • Now try to say the name while your pet is not paying attention. If he looks at you, reward him! If not, repeat the previous exercise and make sure that the distraction is not yet so great.
  • Gradually add more distractions and practice in different places.
  • If your pet reliably listens to his name, you can gradually vary the treat and finally give it only occasionally. Nevertheless, you should always speak in a friendly manner and praise your dog every now and then.

Is it possible to change the name of a dog or cat?

If your pet already has a name that you don’t like, it is of course possible to change it. Most animals get used to their new name quickly, but you should not change the name frequently. Especially animals with a negative history may find it helpful to gain new trust in humans if they have associated their former name with beatings, etc. 

If possible, choose a similar sounding name. It is more difficult to change from Mia to Paulinchen than to Kira or even Lia.

Now it is time to make it clear to your pet that from now on it should listen to a new name. To do this, you can transfer the meaning of the old name to the new name in a similar way to a signal transfer. Say the new name, then the old name and reward your animal.

Example: You want to change Mia to Kira: Say “Kira”->”Mia”-> treat. After a few repetitions you can drop the old name.

You can also proceed in the same way as described before for learning the name. It is important to only say the new name afterwards and not the old name from time to time, so as not to cause confusion.


The dog or cat name is used to address your pet and to simplify communication. If you pay attention to a few things, your darling will quickly learn to listen to his or her name.