Adopting from my rescue may be different than any other rescue because I have it in my contract on most dogs you CANNOT change their name. The reason: there are so many other things that are about to change in this dog's life, the name needs to stay the same but that's only if the dog has had the name for three months or more and it responds well to the name.

What's In a Name?

Should you change your pet’s shelter name? In most cases, it’s a non-question because your dog or cat mostly likely does not know this name. It’s used for recordkeeping and to promote the pet on the shelter website as well as sites like Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet but, practically speaking, isn’t a word that the pet identifies as his or her name. (The exceptions will be pets who have lived in foster home situations or ones who have been surrendered by previous owners.)

All of our adopted dogs and cats were previous strays so none had any attachment to their name. We called each by their shelter names and saw no reaction.

But what if your newly adopted pet does recognize their name and you want to change it? That can sometimes be a good decision for your pet’s happiness and for the success of future training. If your new dog or cat came from an abusive situation, that name may be tied to memories of punishment. In that case, it’s always better to rename.

Or your decision to change your pet’s assigned name may be based solely on your own personal likes and dislikes. (Who wants a dog that shares a name with an ex? Or that boss you never could stand?) That’s OK, too.

If your newly adopted dog or cat does not recognize their shelter name, feel free to just launch into a completely new name immediately. If there’s a previous history with the name, you can gradually fade out the old name and introduce the new.

One easy way is to try a double name for a while. Harry can become Harry Jake. After a period of using both names, just start calling your dog Jake.

Or you can try rhyming a new name with the old. Harry can become Larry.

Regardless of your new shelter pet’s name, just say it with lots of praise and happiness (and it never hurts to accompany it with some tasty treats at first). Always associating his name with good things and happy times will help your new pet learn his new name and, most importantly, the place he holds in his new forever home.