So long Fido, hello Tucker Emma and Murphy

Baby or Puppy?
The day-care roster includes Hannah, Cameron, Sophie, Henry, Tucker and Emma.

They are the same names you’d find at just about any day-care centre in town.

The only thing that might raise an eyebrow — or in this case, a whisker — is the fact that these names were plucked from an attendance sheet at Wag a Lot, a day care for dogs.

Hannah is a German shepherd. Cameron and Henry are lab mixes. Sophie’s a poodle; Emma, a boxer; Tucker, a goldendoodle.

Not one of the 43 dogs playing and fetching at the doggie day care answers to Spot, Rover or even Pepper.

Pet names have changed.

Many people are choosing family or celebrity names for their furry friends, considered a reflection of the deepening bond owners have with their pets.

Seventy per cent of dog owners (and 65 per cent of cat owners) said they consider their dog a full-fledged family member, according to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association. Dogs and cats get dressed up for Halloween and buckled up in the car during drives. About 7 per cent of dog owners and 5 per cent of cat owners throw birthday parties for their beloved pets, according to the association.

The attachment doesn’t even loosen at bed time. It’s estimated four of every 10 dogs sleep in their owners’ beds, according to the association.

So, when it comes to names, pet owners nowadays ruminate much like an expectant couple.

Among the most popular dog names are Lucy, Jack, Bella and Charlie, according to an analysis by, an online database of hundreds of thousands of adoptable pets.

The trendiest cat names also include Lucy and Molly, though some perennial faves — Shadow, Smokey, Tiger, Tigger and Precious — are holding their own.

Rachel Shedd of Atlanta waited until she met her German short-haired pointer before naming him because she wanted to select a name that fit his personality. When she first laid eyes on him at an Atlanta veterinarian office, she was struck by the puppy’s seemingly easygoing personality.

“He was uncomplicated,” she said of her now four-year-old dog. “And he needed an uncomplicated name.”

So she went with Gus.

But not before considering a bunch of names, including Jack and Max.

“He absolutely fits his name,” she said. “My dog likes to lie in the sun. He’s a very laid-back, happy kind of dog, and a high-maintenance, frou-frou name would not fit his personality.”

Dr. Linda Light, who practices at Ark Veterinary Hospital in Buford, Ga., said she has noticed a shift away from Grover and Pepper to more Stellas and Charlies.

She said it’s perfectly fine to change a name of a newly adopted dog or cat. The animals learn their names very quickly, she said.

So what about the pet’s perspective?

Angie Woods, a dog behaviour expert and owner of U.S. Canine in Buford, said a name is irrelevant to dogs since they don’t understand words — only sounds. Still, simpler names with only one or two syllables are easier for dogs to recognize.

“We wouldn’t want to yell ‘King Charles’ across the lawn,” said Woods, who extensively researched Dutch names for her Belgian Malinois before settling on Dirk. “Keep it short and simple.”

Meg Flynn of Atlanta had always wanted to give her dog an Irish name and decided on Murphy. Before she got her dog in 2008, during a visit to a park, she met three Murphys in less than an hour.

She immediately changed her mind, even though she had Murphy tags already printed. She agonized over a replacement name and eventually chose Huckleberry for her deep-caramel coloured furry companion. In the end, she likes the way Huckleberry goes with Flynn and gets a kick out of sending annual St. Patrick’s Day cards saying, “Wishing you the Huck of the Irish.”

“I swore when I first got him I wouldn’t be one of those crazy dog people, but I am,” she said. “When I first get home after work, it’s the best five minutes of my day — easy.”

They go on walks together. When she stops for a coffee, he patiently waits outside.

For Brianna Brown, a dog walker and pet sitter with about 150 clients, the warmer relationship between people and pets is good for business. It means more people want to hire a caretaker instead of boarding them at a kennel.

“I have Sam and Abby and Charlie,” Brown said. “And I have some funny names like Blacky and Decker. People can have a good sense of humour when it comes to naming their dogs and cats.”

A couple of years back, Brown had clients who named their dog Sophia. They loved the name so much that, two years later, when they welcomed their first child, they named her Sophia, too.


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