General Question

mcbealer's avatar

Is it cruel to change the known name of a dog you adopt/rescue?

Asked by mcbealer (10229points) November 15th, 2008

I am planning to adopt another weimaraner in the near future through a weimaraner rescue league. In the past, the 2 dogs I adopted were strays, and their names were unknown. This dog, however, has a very girlie name. Please post your thoughts, pros or cons.

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39 Answers

Mr_M's avatar

No. They don’t know the concept of “name”. Animals learn like the Pavlovian model says they learn i.e., when a bell was rung, the animal salivated because food soon followed. That bell could be replaced by a horn, or a light, etc. and they still learned to salivate.

They learn that when you make a certain sound (in this case, say their name) and they come to you, they get a reward. They look at their name as any other COMMAND and, as you know, dogs can learn MANY commands.

Mr_M's avatar

And think about it. Your previous dogs HAD a name but still learned their new one. Why? Because you replaced their old name (since you did not know it) with their new one and they did just fine.

So what would be the difference if you stop using their old name because you don’t know what it is or if you stop using their old name even though you KNOW what it is? Nothing!

amurican's avatar

Not if you have amnesia.

chyna's avatar

No, they will learn their new name within a week. They are just happy to be with you, no matter what you call them.

TheNakedHippie's avatar

I adopted a little pitbull/lab mix whose name was originally Dawn (horrible name for a dog!) and we changed and there was never the slightest problem. I wouldn’t feel bad, they’ll love you either way. :]

bythebay's avatar

Our dog was one day away from going to dog heaven when we pulled him from the shelter. He was about 2 years old; we gave him a new name a new home, and he has been the most wonderful and grateful pet you could ever have hoped for! It’s the love that counts…not the name!

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asmonet's avatar

What is with all the ‘Is it cruel to do ____ to animals?’ for mundane stuff like a sweater, or now, a name change?

Listen, it’s not cruel to love your dog and express it by naming something special. Your dog will adjust within the week.

mcbealer's avatar

wow, all in favor of name change so far…
thanks to all that responded, let’s keep this discussion alive…

DandyDear711's avatar

We changed the name of our adopted dogs. The border collie was Tristy and we changed to Tiffy. At the time border collies were rare and urban US people didn’t know they were so bright. The other was a spitz mix (dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb). Her first name was Pearl and we changed it to Curley. Our son was adopted. His Korean name was Kim Yong… and we changed his name to Tim. All did fine with the changes. The dogs we intentionally changed to similar sounding names. The Son wasn’t intentional. Somewhere I read that dogs recognize “T” better. Our current not so bright dog’s name is Tai. He knows it. Oh yea, we changed the cat too. Her name was Big Girl or something, We changed hers to Dewey. She comes when she is called. So the only name we didn’t change was our daughter’s though sometimes it is Mud.

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laureth's avatar

My sweetie rescued a dog from an abusive situation and since the dog’s old name was “Dirt,” he changed it to “Digger.” Digger responds just fine to his new name, but when we experimented one day and called him “Dirt,” he looked all sad and went to mope (the same way as he does when he knows he’s been bad).

It seemed likely to us that his old owner may have said his old name only in the heat of anger, so it has a bad feeling to it, even to the dog. In this case, a new name seemed warranted.

Darwin's avatar

We have done both. Dogs do learn the new “name” quickly – they don’t know it is a name as such but quickly learn that when the beloved people make that sound something good or interesting will happen. When a dog has been happy with his/her previous owner, or the dog is very elderly, we tend to keep the name. When the previous owner was abusive, we tend to change the name. Also we change the name if we would feel stupid or embarassed to holler the name in a public place.

Both our kids are adopted and we changed their names but left a link to their birth names. They don’t seem to mind either.

Mr_M's avatar

@laureth, that’s very interesting, makes a LOT of sense, and makes a case for ALWAYS changing the rescued animal’s name.

greylady's avatar

I feel that dogs are able to feel the positive or negative emotion of the one who speaks to them. If you have a negative “feeling” for the pets name, he will pick up on that. Better to change the name, if you don’t like the name he already has. Find a name that you like, and he will like it also.

googlybear's avatar

Sometimes I call my two dogs, Heineken and Dinner, by another name like Corona and Lunch…they don’t mind :-)

jean's avatar

if its name fits is cruel to change its name

jessturtle23's avatar

Cruel? Overdramatic a bit?

Zaku's avatar

Cats and dogs and many other animals do know their names (or, recognize humans making a certain sound when referring to them), and can learn new ones, and I’ve not heard a story of one minding.

TheNakedHippie's avatar

We once adopted a dog who came to us with the name Bubbles. One day when she ran out the front door while the lawn service was there, my dad was too embarrassed to yell “Bubbles” and he agreed to change it to Babe, haha. Never had a problem… I think it has more to do with your inflection/intonation than anything else. I can say my own name in a sing-songy voice and both of my current dogs come running, haha!

Mr_M's avatar

I have three cats and only the right one comes when you call out the name.

Darwin's avatar

What about the left one and the one in the middle?

Mr_M's avatar

No. They don’t. Frustrating!

Darwin's avatar

That’s cats for you. :-)

Adina1968's avatar

No offense mcbealer… You are to be commended for rescuing animals.
It is just that when I worked in an animal emergency hospital for 5 years there were two types of excentric pet owners who rescued specific breeds.
#1.) Greyhound owners
#2.) Weimaraner owners
Both types are extreamly passionate about their dogs to a ridicoulous extreame. LOL!
I think it is completely acceptable to change your new dogs name. I hope you come up with a good one. Best of luck! :-)

Darwin's avatar

Around our area we have a couple more eccentric pet owner categories: dachshund rescuers and chihuahua rescuers. Never ever insult their dog or get in their way.

mcbealer's avatar

@Adina1968 ~ I love weimaraners, but could never justify spending $$$ on a specific breed, when there are so many dogs who need a home. (and let’s face it, usually rescued adolescent/adult dogs are already housebroken, a big advantage for me.) That’s why when I got dog #2 and hopefully this next dog, I turned to a weimaraner rescue league.

mcbealer's avatar

(sorry for double post, too long between entries)

I think several make a good point in saying that if the dog’s known past history is abusive, a name change might be warranted and vice versa if it comes from a loving home and lost its family due to death, relocation, etc.

Lots of variables out there, I really appreciate all the responses so far!

suse's avatar

not cruel at all. just take a bit of time to get it to respond, and if it is a grown up dog it will always answer to its old name too, it wont forget.

dynamicduo's avatar

Since you are now the one caring and loving the creature, I think it’s certainly just to call it what you wish.

dlm812's avatar

Sometimes it is acutally better to change a dogs name—I was the recipient of a “rehomed” puppy (6 months at the time) who came with the name Scout. Not only did I not like this name, but he absolutely did not respond to it in anyway. It was like he didn’t even recognize the word when it was spoken (and while animals may not “know” their name – they do recognize words which they are called by). I changed his name after about a week to Brogan, and he began responding to it after about a day and a half. Now we’re both happy!

maybe_KB's avatar

Depends on the age
And if the previous owners were good to him/her.

foreverana's avatar

Taking in a pet is like getting a new member in the family. I think its certainly a great idea to give the dog a new name, its like a bonding thing.

scallywag's avatar

This is another case of people thinking their pets are humans and care about owning a title. I guess when people rename dogs and the dog is a little slow or reluctant of the new name, people think it’s because the dog will miss their old name. It’s really just them trying to figure out what this strange new command is so they can please you. Giving up on teaching them the new name will probably just leave them more confused, so it’s important you really make up your mind.

I’m pretty sure dogs have a vague idea that their name refers to them, but only in the sense that when the word is said they need to pay attention to whoever said it. It’s the same way humans know their dog’s whine or bark means something but only in the vague sense that the dog wants attention of some sort. And I’m sure you know that Weimaraners are no slouches at learning new things—your new dog will probably be just as excited to learn a new command.

As a disclaimer, I’m no dog expert.

Val123's avatar

@laureth Who in the hell would name their dog “Dirt”?? That makes me angry…

Darwin's avatar

@Val123 – The dog doesn’t mind that his name is “Dirt” or “Mud” or even “Kitty.” The dog just knows that when someone says that word he should pay attention because (with decent owners) good things may happen. The fact that he had bad owners before is the only reason why he responded negatively to the word “Dirt.”

If my dogs knew what the word meant they might very well like the name “Dirt.” They certainly like the real thing. But then they also like to eat cat poop.

batty's avatar

you’re giving them a new life, so a new name seems important.

laureth's avatar

@Val123 – someone who keeps their dog crated in a garage 20 hours a day, I guess. :(

stemnyjones's avatar

No.. beating a dog is cruel. Starving a dog is cruel. Changing a dog’s name is far from cruel.

Every time I adopt a pet I change it’s name. They adapt to it pretty quickly and after a while completely stop recognizing their old name.

Recently I adopted a cat who had been named ‘Baby’. We renamed him ‘Taj’, and now he completely ignores us if we call him baby.

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