Can I rename a rescue dog?
Can I rename a dog that I receive at a shelter?
I want to adopt an adult dog from a shelter. While browsing some of the ones available, I am not always thrilled with the names they are given.
Is it possible to rename a dog to respond to a new name? And if so, is that okay with the dog, or is it better for the dog's welfare if it continues to be called by its original name?
It doesn't really matter. It's a training thing. You can get the dog to respond to either name. This can take some time, especially with older dogs.
We adopted our second dog from a shelter and it was so tied to his name that he was afraid to hear it. So there was no question of changing it.
If you think about it, practicing a new name basically just means practicing a new command / word for "Hey, attention".
Dogs respond more to the vowels than to the consonants. If you change the name but keep the same (or similar) vowel tones, chances are it will be completely seamless.
My uncle has a rescue dog named Sasha. My uncle was mentally challenged and had some pronunciation problems. So he started by sounding more like "Shasha". He and my mother decided to rename her "Tasha" which he could pronounce. The dog never noticed the difference.
A few years ago, the names of my grandmother's dog, my uncle's previous dog, and my sister's were a bigger problem. My sister's name is Jenny, my uncle's dog was called Penny, and my grandmother's dog was officially called Venus, but it was always called Venny. My sister could of course hear her own name, so she didn't come when the dogs were called. But if someone calls my sister, usually both dogs will arrive too!
Or, of course, you can train them to recognize an entirely new name, as Mario says. This will take a little more effort, but it's not too difficult.
Yes, both Gram and Mario have great answers on how to change the name a dog already recognizes
But many of the names that pet animals have are not the names they grew up with. If the pet was given by the owner who provided the name when the pet was brought in, AND if that name was not entirely inappropriate, the pet is likely using its "given" name. Usually, a handover form is filled out by the person bringing the pet. You can usually see this in the properties I've worked with. A copy of it can even come with the pet.
Many pets come to animal shelters without a story.
If the pet is using a name it was given when it arrived at the shelter, it is likely that it has not yet recognized it. You can easily change it until whatever you find most suitable.
New life, new name, new home, happiness forever in the new home forever.
From personal experience I don't think it really matters, it's just a matter of time before the dog is trained to respond to a new name. I saved my staff who were 3 years old at the time and were originally called Didi. It only took a few months for her to fully get used to her new name, Luna. I've had her for 3 years now and she doesn't even answer when I say her previous name - Didi. Some dogs may be different, but in my experience that wasn't a big problem.
The dog has to adapt to you, your family, and a new home. During this time they will be adjusted to the new name if you want a new name. Learning a name is no harder than learning a command like sit.
I used to groom with a local adoption agency (they moved). Foster looked after the dog Monday through Friday and the dog was seen at the agency on the weekends. A dog could be tried or brought back - they didn't want a dog with a poor fit. I raised a girl named Kitty who was just a mess. I had them for 8 weeks and during that time 2 attempts brought them back. The agency ended up saying that you would just take her how she loves you and turn down anyone else. I said ok but i won't care and they said fair enough. I gave her a stage name from Miss K and she responded to both of them.
The criticality of this really depends on the dog. I currently have a Lab / Beagle that I inherited. I trained her to be fully eligible for therapy (PP B +) ... but she is not "smart". I love her, but she doesn't really understand her "name". She understands and responds strongly to a very specific pipe that I use to call her out in the wild. She's pretty sure that's her "name". Which makes sense since it's way more pronounced than "words". She is also more responsive to hand signals than to verbal commands.
That means ... I had and know dogs that recognize their English name immediately. From 1 year. With such a smart and socially attentive dog, if you name him otherwise, they are sure to adapt in no time. The only downside I can think of is getting confused when they hear their old "name". Not a big deal in my opinion as long as no one is actively calling them by their old names.
In my experience, dogs are poor at differentiating words. You pay attention to the context, intonation, body language and the number of syllables. If you say something similar to the intonation of your dog's calling, they are likely to come towards you.
Of course there are exceptions. Some dogs are better than others in this regard. However, the average dog doesn't care.
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