Can You Change a Dog’s Name?
I got an email from a marketing representative a little while ago looking for some exposure for a contest and normally those emails enter my eyeballs and get lost somewhere in my head, going no further, but along with the contest information (which was for naming a company’s cat and dog facebook.com/globalpetfoods) Julie who is the Chief instigator from Instigator Communications asked, “Is it a good idea to change a dog’s name or any pet for that matter? Does it cause confusion and stress? How much of a pet’s identity is tied to a name?” which are good questions that I’ve been asked before but never got around to writing a column about so I decided to do so.
When I’m asked about pets and the importance of names, it always make me think of an old Bill Cosby comedy routine that cracked me up because I could so relate both as a son then and a father now, when he said, “It was because of my father that from the ages of seven to fifteen, I thought that my name was Jesus Christ and my brother, Russell, thought that his name was Dammit. “Dammit, will you stop all that noise?” And, “Jesus Christ, sit down!” One day, I’m out playing in the rain, and my father yelled, “Dammit will you get back in here!” I said, “Dad, I’m Jesus Christ!”
As it is between children and their parents, I don’t think names are the most important part of our connection to our pets. In fact I think pets just humour our need to name things by occasionally responding to the labels we saddle them with. I know a parrot named Bird Reynolds, a cat name Chairman Meow, and a dog named “Boomerang” that of course would never come back.
I don’t think it makes much of a difference to change a dogs name or any pet’s. Anytime I’ve seen it done it didn’t have any affect. I have to think from a pet’s perspective names are more for our amusement then critical usefulness. If Mr. Cosby found himself adopted by a Mexican family the new Mexican dad would be pronouncing Jesus according that culture’s pronunciation – “Hay-Soos” and sooner or later Bill would figure it out and hopefully come out of the rain. Pets are just as adaptive.
I’ve don’t know of any study that has shown that monikers matter to animals much. Anecdotally I’m pretty sure that the only name that has a remote chance of getting a cat’s attention is, “Your highness” and only then if our gaze is appropriately averted and while most dogs probably know their names they are only likely to respond to them in the presence of a ball or treat and the absence of a squirrel or other similar distractions.
Don’t you think having a name attached to those around us is a human convention rather then an animal one? My theory is that we humans invented names to make it easier to make gossiping about each other more efficient and as animals are more civilized and don’t gossip they have no need for names.