How to Name a Show Dog

By Jane Meggitt

While it's easy to make fun of some of the highfalutin names sported by show dogs, there's generally a method to this moniker madness. A dog's show name might have a pop culture inspiration, or his name could reflect his canine heritage. His show name and "call" name are often entirely different, with the latter sharing popularity with dogs of more plebeian descent. Your show dog's name must fall within the American Kennel Club's acceptable parameters.

Registration Requirements

When choosing a show name, AKC regulations limit the name to 50 characters. That includes any hyphen, word spaces and apostrophes. Roman numerals aren't permitted in a show name. The AKC might assign Roman numerals if your dog's approved show name is used by another canine. Up to 37 AKC-registered dogs can have the same name. If you want to include a registered kennel name, you must submit written authorization from the kennel name's owner. You'll pay an additional fee if your name choice contains more than 36 characters.

Forbidden Words and Phrases

Don't think of naming your dog "Champion" or any other AKC title that must be earned. You can't give him an obscene name -- in any language -- or a name derogatory to any race, religion or ethnicity. Other prohibited words include kennels, male, female, bitch, dam, stud and sire. If you can't make up your mind regarding a show name, don't just throw up your hands and write down "poodle," or whatever the breed happens to be. It's not acceptable.

Changing the Name

If you really can't stand the registered name of your pooch, you can change it. That's as long as he was born in the United States. If the litter owner initially registered the animal, you'll need that person's written approval for the name change. That's also true if the dog's name includes a registered kennel name -- you'll need written approval of the kennel name owners. You can't change the name if the dog has sired or whelped registered puppies, or if the dog has received any awards at an official AKC event. The AKC charges a fee for any dog name change.

Honoring Lineage

Racehorse owners often give their equines names relating to their sire and dam. For example, one of Secretariat's most successful sons was named "General Assembly." Dog show people often take the same naming route, with a show dog's name alluding to his sire or mother in some way.

Litter Themes

Breeders might use theme names when registering their puppies. Not only does this make naming several dogs at once somewhat easier, but it also helps the breeder recall the specific year the litter was born as time goes by. For example, one litter might have rock star names -- Elvis, Jagger, McCartney, Springsteen, Courtney, etc. -- while others are named for fashion designers, wines, flowers or whatever takes the breeder's fancy.