Good Dog Name, Bad Dog Name

Naming a dog is always a very complicated affair.

Everybody in the family wants to name the dog after their favorite hero, villain, or whatever else.

According to experts, the best dog names should contain 2 syllables so that the dog can more easily distinguish it from commands which usually only contains 1 syllable, e.g. Sit, Stay, Jump, Shake.

In addition, a dog’s name should contain hard consonants because dogs recognize hard/stop consonants more easily.

Therefore, what should you name your dog?

Both my dogs have several names which helps with the hero-villain naming dilemma. In particular they each have a good dog name and a bad dog name.

The good dog name is used during attention exercises and recall, and the bad dog name is used when they perform undesired behaviors.

Why have a good dog name and a bad dog name?

The main reason is to avoid confusion – for your dog.

Experts recommend that you do not use any names at all when disciplining your dog for undesired behaviors. Just say “No” or “Ack-Ack” rather than “Lassie No”. This is because you do not want your dog to associate his name with the undesired behavior or with the correction.

If you use your dog’s name to praise, issue commands, and correct him, it will get very confusing, very quickly.

Does his name mean “come to you”, “don’t do this”, or “do this”?

Being humans, however, it is our tendency to attach names when speaking to our dogs. We really want to say “Lassie No” rather than just “No”.

Therefore, it is easier to assign a good dog name and a bad dog name. My Shiba’s good dog name is Sephy (Ok – I didn’t follow the hard consonant rule) and his bad dog name is Butros.

When I want to praise him or do recalls I use his good dog name, and when he is naughty, I use his bad dog name.

Consistency is key in communication with your dog.

Uniqueness of names is also important. For example, you do not want to use the names of other people in the household, or names of friends that frequently come up in conversation.

I often talk about my dogs, so they also have a neutral name.

In this way, my dogs do not think I am giving them commands or correcting them when I am in conversation with other people about them. What you use as a neutral name is less important – it just has to be different from his good and bad dog names.

Uniqueness is also the reason why many people do not use the word “No” with their dogs.

It is not because they are afraid they will hurt their dog’s feelings but rather because “No” occurs regularly in normal conversation. As a result, your dog may get confused, and think you are disagreeing with his current behavior, when actually you are just in conversation with another human.

My Shiba has many names because he is such a Character! Being a Shiba however, his most common name is Butros!

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  1. Kathleen Rayner says

    Hi, I have just found your website and find your article on good dog/bad dog names very interesting. I have a 7month old Labrador and was wondering if I could start using a bad dog name at this age. I do tend to use his name before ‘no’ or ‘aah’ ‘aah’ at times, but what you say makes so much sense!
    I have a problem with my Labrador taking more notice of my older staffie x hitch, when we are out walking and I recall him he will only come if his ‘sister’ command he also worries about where she is and ignores me at times! Can you suggest ways of overcoming this problem. If I take him out on his own will he eventually learn to respond to me?
    I look forward to your reply.

    • shibashake says

      The key purpose of the bad dog name, is to prevent me from using their good dog name, when they are doing something undesirable. In this case, it is more for me than for my dogs :D, so really there is no age issue.

      We can also condition our dog so that the bad dog name functions as a no-mark. However, if we are already using a consistent no-mark, then that is less important. As I understand it, puppies often learn faster, but any healthy dog can be conditioned.

      As for getting my dog’s attention, it is a matter of priorities. Different dogs have different priorities for different stimuli. The strength of the surrounding stimuli also matters.

      For example, in a low stimulus area, e.g. my backyard, it is much easier to get my dog’s attention. When out hiking, there are many more interesting things about to compete for his attention, so it is more challenging. When there is deer around, it gets even more challenging because it triggers my dog’s prey drive. If the deer is running, then things become even more difficult.

      I usually start recall training in a very low stimulus environment, and with very high priority rewards so that my dog learns that coming to me is the best thing ever. This sets my dog up for success because it elevates recall priority, while reducing distractions. The more my dog comes to me when I call, the more likely he will come in the future. I keep repeating this until we have very good recall, then I very slowly increase the environmental challenge.

      Here is a good article from the ASPCA on recall training-

      I also do desensitization exercises with my dog to reduce his reactivity level to other dogs, cats, etc.

  2. Rebekah says

    Hi, I found your post on giving your dog a good name and a bad name very interesting, but I was curious where you got the idea and if this technique has been used before by other trainers? Thank you! Your site has been very helpful in training our new pup.

    • shibashake says

      I am not a trainer. I currently have three dogs, and I write about my experiences and adventures with them.

      As for good name/bad name, the trainers I visited with and the dog behavior books that I read say that it is best *not* to use a dog’s name with punishment because then, our dog will associate his name with negative events. Instead we want to associate our dog’s name with positive occurrences. This will make him want to pay attention to us when we call his name, rather than run away. This makes logical sense to me, as does the establishment of a yes-mark and no-mark.

      The good name/bad name thing is something that I started doing with my dogs because it is often a reflex for me to use their names when I verbally communicate with them, so it was helpful for *me* to have a good name and bad name for each of them. In this way, the good name/bad name is simply another form of yes-mark/no-mark, except unique to each dog.

      Congratulations on your new puppy!

    • Rebekah says

      Thank you for responding so quickly to my question. Is there any chance you can contact me through e-mail? I’m a freelance writer and would love to interview you and propose an article about this training concept to a publication. I entered my e-mail into the box when I posted this comment, but I’ll check back to this page just in case you need it. You can check out my linkedin profile so you know I’m legit :P. . Look forward to speaking with you!

  3. shibashake says

    Thanks for dropping by Lorna. Your comment put a smile on my face.

    I always loved Eddie on Frasier so I had looked into getting a JRT initially. Don’t know if I can keep up with one though – lol.

    Your JRT sounds really awesome. I think they are one of the smartest breeds around. 4 paws up and a very special Siberian lick for rescuing a dog in need!

  4. Lorna says

    Hi, I have just rescued a 6 year Jack Russel Terrier, He obviously was command trained to be a very good dog, HOWEVER because I only ever had a dog when I was little I never realized the importance of consistency. So altho he listens very well, he, of course tests me whenever something new arises, like today when he was pull/biting on his leash. I thought it was adorable. My son in law “corrected me” so I came home and immediately looked it up, yours was first in Google and very helpful. I continued to read further and was in stitches while reading the ‘poop issues. I love your way with words. Thanks Very helpful and Very interesting.

  5. shibashake says

    She emphasised that the two most important commands are stay and come, the ability to obey these commands can save your dog in dangerous situations.

    That is very true. My Shiba is much better at Stay than he is at Come 🙂 He is not very people focused, not very food focused, and extremely stubborn – all of which make recall more of a challenge.

    One very important thing with recalls is not to chase after the dog. Especially for Shibas – who seem to really love playing chase games. If I turn and walk away he will usually be trotting after me. Gotta play hard to get with a Shiba! 🙂

  6. Kaiks says

    A good idea, our puppy has just started to test limits to see what he can get away with. While we don’t have a bad dog name, we usually get his attention with one of two words that he recognises. Also a quick “ah” let’s him know to think twice about what he’s about to do. We use his name only when he is doing good or when we want some rewardable action.
    Our puppy preschool instructor told us it’s important that the name is to get attention only, after that he should expect a command. She emphasised that the two most important commands are stay and come, the ability to obey these commands can save your dog in dangerous situations.

  7. shibashake says

    Hello Paris,

    In terms of dog training I am not a professional dog trainer. My Shiba Inu was a very difficult dog though, so I learned a lot from him.

    If you are having serious issues, especially aggression issues it is best to get a professional trainer to come over to observe your dog’s behavior. In this way, the trainer can accurately tell why the dog is showing particular behaviors, what triggers them, and what is the best way to train for alternate behaviors.

    Make sure to shop around for trainers and talk to several of them before picking one. There are very few controls on dog training, so not all of them have good dog kung-fu.

    Here is an article on finding a dog trainer.

  8. Paris says

    Thanks I’m going to start trying this technique on my dog first thing in the morning.
    P.S. How much do you know about dog training because im having some serious problems

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