Q: What’s in a name? A dog’s name? I am thinking of getting a dog, but I’m more confused by what to call the dog than what kind of dog to get. A dog is a dog is a dog, right? The name doesn’t matter. I could just call the dog Fido or Spot, or any of those stereotypical dog names and be done with it.
A: A rose is a rose by any other name. But a dog becomes known and identified by its name. Of course it makes a difference. In thinking of the name first, however, you’re putting the cart before the horse — or the leash before the dog. You should be doing your research as to what breed or mixed breed suits you. Should you adopt from a shelter or a rescue organization? Bring home a brand-new puppy? These are questions only you can answer.
OK, let’s grapple with the naming ceremony. Dog Lady believes that once you set eyes on your dog, you will know his/her name. It doesn’t hurt to do a little thinking beforehand about what statement you want to make through your dog’s name. Some dog trainers advise a name of two syllables for a dog because canines respond well to simple differentiations in tone. Dog Lady, the contrarian, believes a dog will learn to react eagerly to its name (“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” might be a little excessive) especially if food is involved whenever you call the name in the beginning.
Eventually, you will become protective. Recently, Dog Lady ran into a man with two poodles named Jake and Andrew. Obviously, the man gave his dogs serious human names and was careful to clarify it was “Andrew,” not “Andy.” To other dog keepers, their animal’s name is whimsical, or a joke. “Bob Barker” comes to mind or “Diogee” (get it, D-O-G).
No matter what you name your dog, a string of nicknames will gradually take over as you become more familiar with your pet. Right now, Dog Lady calls her shaggy guy “Bobby Lovin’ Cup” (Lovey for short).
Q: I was taking my wirehaired terrier for a walk with a friend and her miniature schnauzer in a nature preserve where dogs are allowed off-leash. When we saw this family (man, woman, two small kids) cowering on the trail, we called out “they’re friendly” about the dogs, but the group didn’t speak English. Finally, we had to grab hold of our dogs’ collars. They all ran by us while the kids screamed. They kept running until they were about 100 yards away. Doesn’t this seem excessive?
A: Yes, this sort of overreaction seems excessive. It would be one thing if you had big dogs — pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds and their ilk. Even if these dogs are the sweetest darlings, their appearance can scare children — and some adults. Owners of big-breed or mutt dogs should always hold on and supervise the animals in public places. A hefty dog running off a leash can be a threat — real or imagined.
You must be prepared in a public place. The people you met on the trail were nervous, and you shouldn’t blame them. Although you describe nothing aggressive or untoward about your small dogs, these parents were protecting their children by being cautious. You have no right to question their actions.
Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Follow the “Ask Dog Lady” fan page on Facebook. Write your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.