Secret of How a Rescue Dog Names Himself

A gift to a rescue dog can be allowing the dog to pick a new name. How’s that possible? Well, what’s in a name? We have all fretted over picking just the right name for a child, pet, or even a car. A name needs to feel like it “fits” the thing or person to which it’s given. Or at least that’s always been my thought. Have you ever thought of allowing your rescue dog, to have a say in their own name? Sounds a bit crazy? Seriously, a rescue dog names himself? Wait just a minute and let me explain. It’s not that difficult. I’ll walk you through the process and you can do it too.

*Updated: June 6, 2024

Budget Tip:

When looking for your dog, you can stock up supplies over time you know you'll need, such as poo bags, leash, wipes, brushes, shampoo, etc. By buying basic supplies over a few weeks or months you won't be hit by a huge bill when you finally find your pup.

If the dog’s name doesn’t fit, it must go!

When I adopted my dog his name was Timmy. He’d spent four months in foster care with the name Timmy. However, for some reason, he’d decided that was not a name he liked and would not answer to it for anything. Even if I offered him a cookie. He just didn’t like the sound of the name.

Moreover, he didn’t really look like a Timmy to me, so I wasn’t upset over his disdain for the name. Although, it could’ve been the history he experienced with the name. Our rescues do have their own stories. 

In this article, I talk about how to adopt a foster dog and the day I rescued my pup. 

How your rescue dog names himself

Since Timmy was a no-go for this little poodle mix, who I would soon learn was most likely a cockapoo, I started thinking of new names. My friend who was with me when I rescued my dog, started texting me different French names. Her thought was that he was obviously French he might like a French name. She texted names like:

  • Louie
  • Theo
  • Felix
  • Hector
  • Alex
  • Hugo
  • Leo

They all landed on deaf ears. I was beginning to wonder if my new rescue dog was deaf. 

Discover how to easily take your dog to work in this article. 

Then my friend sent one more suggestion:


Perhaps it was an auto-correct and was supposed to be Henri. I said to my new little furry friend sitting on the couch next to me “Henry”. His head whipped around as if I had a prime rib in my hand. I said it one more time, “Henry”.

Instantly, he twisted his head and seemed to accept the name. It was almost like Cinderella slipping on her glass slipper. But this was Henry being titled with his very own name of his choice. 

With a chuckle, I said it one last time and he was still in agreement. I told him he would have a very regal name for such a little pup. That didn’t seem to bother my new little dog. However, Henry does “fit” him perfectly. No other name would’ve worked as well for this sociable and precocious dog. Yep, a rescue dog names himself. 

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how a rescue dogs names himself
Right is the day I adopted him on his way from Timmy to Henry.

Need more dog name ideas? Here’s an extensive list from Chewy.

Do dogs really know how to name themselves?

Although I’m not certain if Henry was really accepting “his” name or reacting to the name because it was associated with someone he liked from his past, he did make the choice. He responds “Henry” very positively even today. 

On the other hand, “Timmy” would’ve taken a lot of work to get him comfortable with this name. 

My thought is, that my rescue dog has already been through trauma, he has nothing, if I can at least give him something so small as his choice over his own name, I’m willing to do it.

However, if he had responded positively to some super-offensive word, I would have exercised my veto power. I told Henry at the beginning that he could choose his name, but I had veto power. I mean who wants to be at the dog park calling their four-letter dog’s name to come? Thankfully it worked out perfectly and he did well on his choice of names. 

Get the Best tips for dog parents in this article.  

How to involve your dog in picking his own name?

If you or your pup don’t like your rescue dog’s name and want a new name, go for it! Let your rescue dog’s name be your first gift to your new pup. It’s not that difficult. It can take a little bit of time and patience. But it’s very rewarding. You can do it! Just like I did with Henry.

Specifically, make a list of names and say them out loud, slowly, near your dog, and see if your dog responds at all. It could be a look, a head turn, or even a walk away. A response in any form will tell you if your dog likes the sound of the name or not.

However, if your dog has no response, as Henry did for all the names, except Henry, just keep trying. You’ll find a name that your dog likes. But you may want to tell your dog upfront that you get veto power. You don’t want your dog responding positively to a name and it’s an ex’s name that gets dropped casually in conversation. 

My dog picked his name, now what?

Here’s the super cool part when your dog picks his name or is involved in picking his name, you get to tell everyone that your dog named himself. That’s always a fun conversation. 

You also get to have fun picking out personalized dog accessories like:

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Summary of  the “secret of how a rescue dog names himself”

If you have a new dog and would like to give him the power to be involved in his own dog name, then give it to him. 

Write out a list of names and make notes on what, if any dog names are responded to either positively or negatively. If there’s a negative response such as a growl or leaving the room, cross it off the list and move on. However, if you have a positive response like a look, tail wag, or head twist, then pursue that name. It could be your dog’s name. Then you too can say a rescue dog names himself. 

What do you think about the idea of giving your dog a choice in his name? 

About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

14 thoughts on “Secret of How a Rescue Dog Names Himself”

  1. Aww, that’s a cute story about how Henry got his name. It sounds like it was definitely instinct. He knew it the moment you said his new name. I agree. If you have a rescue and he’s not keen on his given name, then let him or her choose a better one that suits their personality and vibe. Sounds like a process but worth it!

    • Thank you! I think the name can be gift to a dog that has nothing and in most cases has come from trauma of some sort. Yes, it can take a bit of work. But, you’re right, it’s definitely worth it!

  2. I think it is a great idea to involve your rescue pet in the naming process! My first dog, Annabelle, was named in a similar way to your Henry. Annabelle had just shown up on my parents’ door step as a puppy and my parents decided to keep her. My parents just started calling names out from across the room and when my mom said “Annabelle”, she came to my mom.

  3. I love the story of how Henry picked his name! I’ve never taken in a new animal and not given him/her a new name. Even when I’ve adopted animals, like rabbits and exotics, who don’t usually ‘tell’ you quite so clearly whether they like a certain name or not, I’ve always felt it appropriate to rename them. A new name to go with their new lives!

    • It’s so wonderful to give your adopted animals the gift of a new name. I think it’s a fresh start to a brand new chapter on their journey. Thanks for sharing your insights!

  4. Each of our cats ‘told’ us their name in some way. It’s odd but they do respond to a name. Our Phoebe was ‘Sally’ at the rescue and, to this day my partner says “She was never a Sally” and he’s right she answers to Phoebe and talks to us as Phoebe as if the name really resonated with her.

    • I love this story. It’s so true that our furry kids know what they want to be called, if we only give them a chance to express it. Thanks for sharing your story about Phoebe’s name. It’s a great name!

  5. I love that name. Layla was called Blackie in the shelter and there was no way I was going to call her that name so when I rescued her I called her Layla which means Night as she arrived at night from the shelter to her home and she is a happy girl with that name.

    • I love the meaning behind Layla! She definitely looks like a Layla too. And it’s a much better name than her shelter name. Thanks for sharing your story about Layla’s name.

  6. That’s interesting. Our rescue didn’t exactly name herself but who wants a Rottweiler named Cookie? We were going to change it. Except we realized she indeed IS a Cookie. So we left it.

    • If the name fits, then it’s the right name. That was perfect to wait to see if Cookie was her name. I’ve met all sorts of dogs that at first the name didn’t seem right, but once I got to know the dog it was the right name. Like Doogie for a Great Dane seemed wrong at first, but Doogie matched his personality. Thanks for sharing your story about Cookie’s name!

  7. Hi! What a great story about Henry and his name choice! Absolutely loved it! Oh I also was reading the one about gifting a dog for Christmas! Very good article. All dogs deserve a home where they are wanted. You provided a really wonderful service by reminding folks that not everyone wants or is ready to accept the responsibility at that moment, but that gift certificate is pure genius!!! High five and Happy holidays!!!

    • Well, hello there Tootsie and Rooney’s human! So nice to have you here.

      I appreciate your support! My goal is to help both dog parents and dogs with this blog.

      High paws to you and a warm and happy holidays to you, Tootsie, and Rooney. 😉🐶💖🐶


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