Kelly's Dog Blog - Renaming Your Rescue Pet

Will a new name confuse your pet?

April 10, 2019

We’re not calling him “Monkey.”

My husband was adamant. We had just acquired a 2-year-old Brussels Griffon-Schnauzer mix through a foster program. The foster family had been calling him Monkey, and although he did have similar, yet subtle facial features of a primate, to us, he simply looked more like a “Griffin.” 

So, he became Griffin the day we brought him home. His Brussels Griffon heritage made it even more apropos, and very soon he was referred to as simply “Griff.”

Many times, when people adopt a pet from a previous owner, they feel obligated to adopt the name that came with it as well. After all, the pet has always gone by that name, so why confuse it?  What they don’t realize is that the pet is more than likely already feeling a sense of uncertainty; renaming it something closer to your own taste and/or more befitting to the animal won’t be adding to that confusion.

Besides, there is a certain synchronization with a new home, new owner (I prefer pet parent) and new name. The bottom line is that pet’s life has (hopefully) been enriched. It will associate its new family and surroundings as one unit, with a new name bestowed upon it. 

I contacted John Van Zante, Public Relations Director at Rancho Coastal Humane Society, to ask for his thoughts. He had this to say:

“Changing names is really no big deal. I believe our pets are more
concerned with the sound of our voice and how we say their names than
what we call them.”

He also added that his dogs had/have several different nicknames, and respond to each. With four dogs of my own, each with several nicknames, I found this relatable and comforting. 

John also enlightened me with something we don’t like to think about: pets that are caught up in a domestic violence situation. 

“Sometimes animal victims of divorce can benefit from a new name. If they
were part of the arguments, they're better off not being reminded of it.”

John gave another example, “A guy surrendered his dog and said its name was ‘Dammit.' That dog needed a fresh start with someone who appreciated him.

“So, it's okay to change a dog's name. In the beginning, be consistent.
Mostly, whatever you call your dog, say it with love.”

Thanks, John. And a big thank you to all who rescue.