Richmond Dog photography

WHAT’S IN A NAME? | On changing the name of a dog

Should you change a dog’s name? If you’ve had your dog from puppyhood it’s unlikely you’ve been faced with this dilemma. Your pup will likely have been known merely as “White Tail Tip” or “Orange Collar” and you will get to choose your dog’s first and only proper name.

But if you’ve ever adopted an older dog you may well have come across this issue – the name you simply cannot live with.  Our first rescue dogs were all blessed with very sweet names.  Who could fail to love a greyhound called Jasmine, or an Arrow, or a Robbie?

Given a blank slate, we quite like Victorian parlour maids’ names for girl dogs.  So when we adopted our lurcher Pollyanna, or Polly as she is known, her name was as perfect as she and it stayed.

Our little lurcher Lindy was a different matter. The name just didn’t seem to suit this cheeky little girl and I couldn’t face yelling “Lindy” across a dog park or signing our Christmas cards with a Lindy. But she already knew the name Lindy, even though she’d only had it since she was rescued. We compromised and she became Lindy Lou, or Lulu for short.

The more I ponder the question of changing names, the more complex I think the issue is.

As a sailing sort, I’d always been told it can be bad luck to change a boat’s name.  You can do so if you really need to, but a careful process needs to be followed to avert any bad luck.  Since we misguidedly changed the name of our very first boat in a fit of hubris and foolishness, we have always treated the superstition with great respect.

On the other hand, a former name can sometimes carry unpleasant baggage from the past that the dog needs to move on from.  I met a beautiful setter in the park the other day and her owner and I got talking.  He told me she was a rescue, an abuse case who had been trained as a gun dog using the most barbaric methods.  The turning point in her healing process had been the decision to change her name.  From the moment she took her new name, she cast off the horrors of her past life and became a new dog, happy and confident, the dog she was always meant to be.

I think these days I might approach the issue of name-changes more thoughtfully and sensitively. Our greyhounds Arrow and Robbie were both rehomed by us after they had been returned to rescue kennels late in their lives and in very sad circumstances: their names were one of the few things to remain constant through all that upheaval. And little Lindy may only have carried the name “Lindy” for a short while when she first came to me but it was clearly important to her.  It was probably the first time anyone had addressed her with love and gentleness in their voice and touched her with kind hands.  These days we call her Lulu when she is having a special fussing but mostly we call her Lindy.  It is her name after all.

Richmond Dog photography
Lurcher Lindy, aka Lindy Lou, aka Lulu



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I'm Liz Coleman, aka madaboutgreys, an award-winning Surrey dog photographer, offering photoshoots for hounds, horses and all kinds of pets across London, Surrey and the South East. Check out the madaboutgreys WEBSITE at

7 thoughts on “WHAT’S IN A NAME? | On changing the name of a dog”

  1. I have changed 4 of my rescue dogs names, Rosie was known as Roz but at that time I had a friend called Roz, Pickle was called Grace but she was changed because in her younger days she was such a Pickle, Socks was named Kermit when he came to me and all I could think was the green frog puppet, and Apple was called Penny but I didn’t want 3 dogs have a “p” at the start of their names. When it came to Apple I could have called her anything and it wouldn’t have mattered as she wouldn’t have heard me anyway, because she is deaf.
    Out of the 10 rescue dogs I’ve had only Brandy actually knew her name, the other learnt theirs in a very short time.
    Someone once said to me that taking a rescue dog is giving a dog a new start in life so a new name was a part of the new life, I’m not altogether sure I agree if a dog already knows it’s name as you have said it is important to a dog, but in the case of the dog that had been mistreated then yes perhaps it is a good thing to leave the past behind.

    1. How interesting. Homing a rescue is a new start indeed and a change of name is a great way to mark the new start. I would give my eye teeth to have a dog called Grace who also lived up to that name – in fact I once fostered a Grace who filled that description and letting her go was one of my biggest regrets. Don’t think I would have hesitated to change the name of a Kermit though. Poor Socks, whatever were they thinking?!

  2. I never renamed my adopted dogs because I felt it was the only thing of themselves they could bring with them. It was all they knew and that perhaps gave them comfort.

  3. Our first galga was called Candy when we first got her – and though she very definitely is very sweet we just couldn’t live with that name… made us think about something pink and sugary… we renamed her Rica (and she has made our lives very rich!). Our second galga’s name is Sola and although we wondered if we should change the name (not knowing wether it meant something good for her) she has always remained Sola. Of course both have multiple other names als well (Rica the Princess, Lady Long Leg etc.)

  4. We’ve only had one rescue in our lives to date and we did change her name. She was a labrador, gun trained by harsh methods if her behaviour was anything to go by – she cowered in fear when she was put in the car, and was frightened of our hands, newspapers and many other things. Anyway, she came with the name ‘Seal’. Neither of us liked it but we wanted a name that sounded familar to her and she became Semele.

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