Updated: Mar 18, 2019
Many people who adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue center, have an idea in mind of what they would like their dog to be named. This usually isn't the name that the dog comes with! I hear all the time from owners saying "Oh this is ****. I didn't name her that! She came with it!" I politely suggest that they are free to change it, and some look horrified that that would rock their dog's world, and strip them of their identity. Others look relieved that they no longer have to shout "Princess" or "Broccoli" (both names I have encountered!) across the park!
So can you rename your dog?
This applies for any age of dog from puppy to senior.
It is all about association. Dog's don't have a feeling of ownership over their name. You had to TEACH your dog that when you said that word, that word referred to getting their attention. And how did you do this?
Repetition, consistency, and reward!
Chances are, you didn't realize you were training your dog their name. You just used it again and again, and over time, your dog started to respond! This is because she associated that word with your attention. You called her name, she responded, you gave him love and praise. Her identity and self-image is not tied to her name.
So how do you teach your dog a new name? There are a two ways of doing this but first things first, decide on the new name you want to christen your dog with! It doesn't have to sound similar, or start with the same letter as her previous name etc.
When your dog is not paying attention to you, say her new name in a high pitched, excited voice. When she turns to you, reward with treats and praise. You are teaching her that that word means attention and love is coming her way! Do this a few times a day, and pretty quickly, she will cotton on. Avoid saying her old name from now on. This can be a little challenging but stick with it!
Combine the old name with his new name. Now, stay with me here! This method doesn't involve carrying treats with you, but it does take a little longer. Let's stick with Princess as an example, and the new name for her will be Lucy. Start referring to her as 'Princess Lucy' whenever you use her name in everyday life. Spend a few days to a week with this combined name, before starting to softly say 'Princess', and really emphasizing the word 'Lucy'. After a week or two, you can start to drop her original name completely, and give her lots of attention when she responds to just Lucy.
I have used both methods in the past, and I must admit that method 1 is by far my favorite way of renaming a dog. However, both do work with time and consistency on the owners part!