Renaming A (Rescue) Dog

Puppies in a litter are often named by the breeder reflecting a physical attribute the pup has (“Big Boy”, “Socks”, “Brownie”), or because of a specific collar color the breeder has put on them (in the case of dogs looking the same, like Golden Retrievers).

Rescue dogs either come with the name they had at their previous home (if known), or a name given to them by the shelter or rescuer.

Should You Rename Your Rescue Dog?

There is no reason not to re-name a rescue dog or new puppy that you adopt into your home. If you use that name in a positive manner and always associated with good things, the dog will quickly learn to understand that name means HIM!

I own 2 rescue dogs. Both came from not-so-bad situations. Mickey lost his Dad to cancer, and Remington was too much attitude for his previous owner. These dogs have their original, given name. I chose to keep their names because they never had any terrible experiences associated with their name.

I fostered a Border Collie rescue for Great Lakes Border Collie Rescue who was kept in a corn crib for a year and had much baggage come with him into rescue. The instant he left his previous owner’s hand he got a new name, Kip, and will never hear his name from his previous life again. He got his new name to not only symbolize a new life for him, but also to shed all the bad things associated with his previous name.

Getting your dog to understand his new name is easy: his name is used when training and reinforcing commands, and is also used when giving treats (“Good Kip!” treat “What a good boy, Kip!” treat). The new name is ALWAYS used in a positive manner.

What To Name Him Or Her?

That’s the fun part – and it’s completely up to you! If you need some inspiration, check out’s Top Dog survey:

Popular Dog Names

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Junior Watson

Junior is the resident "Top Dog". He enjoys walks in the park, chasing invisible cats, and of course... bacon strips!

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