By Kari Benson
This question really depends on the individual situation – more specifically the age of the pet, and how long the pet has had that name, and what type of pet you have. If you have a new puppy that has already been named, I wouldn’t feel guilty about changing the name. My family raised a litter of puppies while I was growing up and we gave them what we called “puppy names” to keep them all straight. We didn’t put a lot of thought into the names and almost expected some of the names to be changed. In this case, feel free to change the name of your new puppy whatever you’d like.
But what if the puppy (or dog) is older?
Unfortunately, there is some truth to the old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but this doesn’t necessarily mean you are stuck with the dog’s name. Generally speaking, the older the dog, the more difficulty you may have if you decide to change it’s name. If a puppy is over 4 months old, he will probably have started to respond to his name. If you adopt an animal that knows his name, he will, understandably, be confused if you attempt to change it. My advice in this situation is to choose a new name for your dog that is similar to the one he already has. This is a win-win for both of you – it will be much easier for your pet to adjust to his new name, and also let you call your pet what you want.
Also keep in mind that the amount of time the dog has had that name is also a factor. Just like “puppy names,” many shelters and rescue groups will give names to animals to help keep them straight. In this case, they probably don’t know their names anyway, so feel free to change them as you please. However, some shelters (or previous owners) may know the name the animal responds to. In this case, I would recommend keeping the name if it is at least tolerable, or changing it to something similar. Both you and the dog will already be going through a lot of changes – and a new name won’t make things easier for either of you.
What about cats or other pets?
As is the theme here, it is going to depend a lot on the individual animal and situation. However, from experience, other animals do not pick up on their names as fast as dogs do. I would use the guidelines explained above for dogs, but realize you probably have more leeway. Also, the less cuddly, the easier it is to change the name of your animal. If you’re not fond of the name of your new goldfish or hermit crab, by all means, go ahead and change it.
Congratulations on the new addition to your family! Check out Protect Your Puppy for more advice on caring for your new pet.