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How Do Registered Kennels Choose Names for Their Puppies?

Picture of a purebred dog

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually. Whether the new addition is a baby or a family pet, people spend inordinate amounts of time trying to select just the right handle for their new family member. Names can express interests, favorite pastimes, much beloved vacation destinations, or even simply unique personality traits. Because a name tends to “stick” for the lifetime of a dog, many families invest a lot of research into coming up with just the right one to bestow on their new canine pal. But before a puppy joins its new family, its life begins in its breeder’s home. A name is often selected for the puppy here to then be adopted by its new family or changed as the new owners prefer. But many people do wonder—how do registered kennels choose names for their puppies?

It All Starts with a Kennel Name

Breeders are required by their registration bodies to decide upon a name for their kennel. It is this name that will become what is known as their kennel prefix. As the name suggests, this kennel name will appear at the beginning of the registered name for any puppy that the kennel produces. This name is then recorded with the registration body for that puppy and is the name by which the dog is known to that organization for the life of the dog. The call name, typically selected by the owner, may bear some relationship to the registered name, but often, it is entirely different.

This registered kennel name is very important, particularly when it comes to dogs that are involved in the conformation world or dog performance events. It is this kennel prefix that allows other breeders and exhibitors to identify the dogs produced by the same kennel. The ideal goal of all breeders is to successfully produce a “type” that people can recognize as being the product of that particular kennel by sight alone with the name simply providing confirmation of what the eye has detected visually.

But just how does a breeder select their own kennel name? Though some breeders do simply choose something random; perhaps because they like the way it rolls off the tongue, more often than not, a breeder will choose a name that has some particular affectionate association for them.

Here are some of the options breeders sometimes choose from when selecting the name for their kennel:

  • Country of origin, a city, or landmark of significance to the breed
  • Personality traits common to the breed
  • Breeder’s last name or nickname
  • Tribute to a past pet of great importance to the breeder

A Puppy’s Very First Name

Reputable breeders invest a lot of time into selecting dogs for their breeding program. Outside the dogs they own themselves, it is often necessary to make use of a stud dog from outside their kennel to help “improve” their lines. Much time is devoted to studying pedigrees, examining health testing, and carefully evaluating strengths and weaknesses in both dogs before committing to a union between a potential breeding pair. With this much thought, effort, money, and love going into a breeding, the breeder is most definitely deeply invested and often will carefully choose names for their puppies that they can use for identification and affection while the puppies are being raised in their home.

Some breeders have a policy that they select the names for their puppies with owners having no input. However, most select a temporary name and give the puppy’s new owner free rein to choose a name that means something to them or that they feel is better suited to their new canine family member.

How does the breeder select a call name for their puppies? A lot depends on where the litter is born. Some countries overseas require puppies to all be named according to the alphabet system. This would mean that for the breeder’s very first litter, every puppy  would need a call name that is then part of their registered name that begins with the letter A. Their second litter would include puppies all named with B names, and so on and so forth. This can be very challenging for the breeder; particularly when they reach letters such as U, X, and Z.  In these cases, sometimes the breeder must scrape the bottom of the barrel to find a name that is reasonable for a puppy’s call name that starts with the required letter. This means these names are sometimes more practical than emotional in nature.

Other breeders like to name their puppies according to a specific theme. Some may select songs from a favorite band or different types of a favorite candy bar line or even zoo animals. The sky is the limit when it comes to creativity. Typically, breeders will choose a theme with some personal significance for them and select names accordingly.

Sometimes, a breeder will have no specific rhyme or reason to the names they choose; instead going for things that sound good to them or have a nice ring. The method employed for selecting a name can be as unique as the breeder and puppies themselves. 

Puppies that Stay with the Breeder for Breeding, Performance, or Show

Typically, puppies that remain with their breeder are show hopefuls. Because of this, their names will be published in show catalogues and often used in advertisements as a tool for promotion in the hopes that judges will see the dog in advance of a show. Because of this, names become even more important. Owners of show dogs want a name that fits the dog well but that also will stick with people upon seeing the dog in person or in an ad in a dog publication.

But even more important than selecting a name that conveys a positive image is avoiding one that could be negative. Certain names can elicit a reaction in people that is less than favorable. A name like Lucky could leave the idea that the dog hasn’t earned its wins in the eyes of a judge who spots the ad. Likewise, controversial public figures are often not a good choice for a future show dog…no judge particularly wants to award a Best in Show to a Hitler, Stalin, or Saddam Hussein.

Since both show catalogues and advertisements list both the registered name and the call name of the dog, it is always a good idea if these names can go hand in hand to create a lasting impression.

How do registered kennels choose names for their puppies? It can be a challenging task. But if you look very closely, you will most often see that the breeder has selected names that carry some significance for them personally and that will have positive impact on that dog’s future career as a show, performance, or breeding dog.

What’s in a name? An awful lot!

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