In The House of Dog – What’s In A Name?

I think that the most important point in the relationship between a dog and their owner is when they name the dog.

Think about it. Think about when you named your dog. And I mean, really think about it. Take a few minutes, stop reading this for a minute or two, close your eyes and think about that moment when you named your dog. What emotions are stirred up inside you right now? A spark of joy when you saw that wagging little puppy tail? Or a maybe a hint of sorrow, since the dog you are thinking of may have passed on. When you think about the dogs you have had in the past, when you speak their names, what do you feel?

Names hold a lot of power. Names are a certain amount of power that we exercise over the things around us; things we love and things we fear, we name them in the hopes that we will understand them and be able to have control over them.

When we don’t like someone, we use ugly and degrading names for them. When we love someone, we use cute and funny pet names. When we name our dogs, we impart to them (without knowing that we are doing this) characteristics and ideals to them without the dog knowing this. My wife picked Flynn’s name, after the character Flynn Ryder from Tangled. And that name affects how both of us view him. We’ll use words like goofy and charming, and “he’s giving you the smolder”, when we talk about him. And Flynn is most likely blissfully unaware of what we are talking about.

Sometimes I feel like a name is also an expectation of what we should expect from that thing in the future. If you name a car you bought a lemon, then you expect that car to break down frequently. When it does break down, you are just as exasperated with it; but when it keeps running when it shouldn’t, you’re ecstatic. Think about hurricanes? What names do you remember?

I think a lot about when I name myself a “dog trainer”, what effect is that having on me and on the people around me. It implies that I have a knowledge and understanding of dog behavior, or at least I should. It also implies that I understand how best to apply said knowledge to behavior problem your dog is having. It implies that I can teach you, the owner, how to do it. And for the most part, that’s true. But I’ve met some behaviors that I’ve never seen before, some dogs whose behavior we couldn’t change, and owners who I couldn’t teach (or possibly who wouldn’t learn).

Think about your dog’s name. Think about what you were hoping for when you named your dog. Think about how you let your dogs name affect your behavior towards them and in response to their behavior. Think about what kind of a power you want that name to have and work towards it.

Keep working and moving forward!

Happy Tails everyone!

-Ben

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