How does the name you give your dog affect people’s perception of the dog?

By Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM | May 30th, 2017



I encountered one dog called Hitler, a massive Caucasian breed of dog. Hitler couldn’t let me enter the premises and had to be chained properly so I could enter the premises. He kept trying to break the chain to come over to me. I decided to try to be friends with the dog by trying some of my ‘professional’ tricks which all failed because the dog was really showing his teeth in an attempt to bite if I tried to touch him.

Fortunately, I was not at the premises to care for Hitler and that was a relief. I asked the dog handler why they gave the dog that name and he asked me to ask his master who was not at home at that time. When I was reporting back to the owner on what we diagnosed and treated on the little dog we went to see I asked him about Hitler and what prompted the naming of that dog. He laughed and started his story:

“We had two Caucasian puppies. They were both 6 weeks of age when we got them. We got them mainly for security and nothing more. We named the both of them Hitler and Caesar. Caesar was more aggressive and would drag for food, bark at everyone –even at me. Somehow we lost Hitler to a disease – I can’t remember the name of the disease – that was when they were 3 months plus. Caesar was the only dog we had left and he was always harsh. But when they were younger they both answered to the names –Hitler and Caesar. One afternoon my wife observed the aggression in Caesar and said that the name Hitler will fit him better. We called him Hitler and he answered us so we started to use the name for him…”

I quickly told him that the name matched his character because anyone that knows Hitler of the war will understand the dog’s behavior or reasons behind the name.

People name their dogs even before they realize the real character of the dog like the story above but sometimes the name will match their character and others will contradict the dog’s personality. Some people even give their dog name that has nothing to do with character of any sort.

Another issue about naming your dog is perception. How will people perceive your dog when you say the name without showing them the dog? Will they get disappointed or cautious when they eventually encounter the dog? In the story above, I murmured to myself –“this is really Hitler”- on learning the name of the dog! And I became very careful instantly because that dog refused to be friendly at all.

The question is: Do you name your dog after you learn his attitude or just name him what you feel and careless about how it affects the perception it will create eventually on the people around? Does it really matter what name a dog is given provided he does the job he was acquired for? These questions are left for you to answer but here in Nigeria, even in my experience people perceive dogs as “biting machines” and when you add a name that amplifies that you instill intense fear on most people that come close to them.

In conclusion, it remains your choice to name your dog according to your feelings towards the dog or according to his/her character or the way you want people to perceive the dog provided your purpose of acquiring the dog was not defeated. You can equally trick people by naming your dog LION just to keep your home from people that might be nursing some bad intentions…LOL

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    Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM

    Founder of Fairvet Animal Clinic Ltd since 2011, studied at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He is well experienced in small animal, large animal & poultry medicine, and also skilled at zoo medicine. He loves animals and builds both professional and personal relationship with pet owners in order to sustain a good interaction with pet and animal owners, coupled with His great skills in programming; he brought about www.fairvet.com which he personally built from scratch.

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