Naming Gun Dog

Download the original text: Naming gun doc (Word Document)

Jerry Thoms 605-692-5883
1930 Victory Street
Brookings, SD 57006


“ 'Here Honey': Picking A Good Field Name For Your 'New' Gun Dog Puppy.”

            “If you think ‘Honey’ isn’t a stupid name for a gun dog, go out into your front yard and holler ‘Here Honey!’ a half a dozen times. Your neighbors will laugh behind your back and strangers will laugh in your face – I’ll guarantee it.”

            The owner of “Honey” – a year old female yellow Labrador – was in the middle of an opening day pheasant hunt complaining about the name he had let his kids give to this hunting dog.  And Honey’s owner was also revealing why giving a gun dog a good field name was important, if for no other reason than to avoid embarrassment.

            “Honey,” he said, “might be an okay name for a spoiled lap dog, a pampered Poodle, or a five-pound Pekinese.  But not a tough and rugged 75-pound pheasant finding, duck-retrieving Labrador retriever.  ‘Honey’ is just too ‘sweet’ and ‘gooey’ for a gun dog,” Honey’s owner had decided.  Too late, of course, because the kids liked the name and it would be stuck to the dog forever.

            There are no “rules” for naming any dog as far as I know.  But, there certainly are some “guide-lines,” some general precepts to follow in picking a name for your new puppy.

            Choose a name with one syllable.  Do so because it’s easier to speak a word of a single syllable rather than a name with two or three parts to it.  Keep in mind that you will be calling your dog’s name every day of its life probably over a 10 to 14 year period.

            So, choose a one syllable word that is easy to holler often at a distance, and maybe over and over.  “Rex,” for example my older German shorthair pointer’s name is easier to say and repeat than “Sebastian,” a black Lab’s name I heard loudly repeated about a thousand times one day last October.  The same holds true for an Springer Spaniel named “Henrietta” a name I hear most every day as the dog’s owner chases this pooch through my backyard.

            Use a name appropriate to the dog’s breed, sex, appearance, and personality.   Max and Fritz and Gus (from Gustave) and Gert (short for Gertrude) are names I’ve used for my German shorthair pointers.  Each of these names has a “Germanic” background and has been fairly well-suited to each dog’s character.

            Avoid names with negative connotations.  “Honey” is a good example.  Though aptly describing the color of the dog, the connection with a sugary sweet confection suggests something out of character with a gun dog’s place in outdoor life.

            I have come across an English pointer by the name of “Snake,” a one syllable word that may have well-described the slick way this hunting dog slithered through the tall trees in the New England countryside.  But, out on the western plains where I hunt prairie grouse, hollering “Snake” immediately calls up the image of a “rattler” which puts most everyone into a necessary panic.

            The same unfortunate connotations apply to “Goose,” the name of one waterfowl guide’s Chesapeake.  When this dog’s owner calls out “Goose” to the gun dog in the pit blind, most of his hunting clients duck down, grab their guns, and look up in the air for a Canada honker or a specklebelly.  At least this happens for the first hour of the day.  Later on they ignore the word and, of course, miss the opportunity to shoot a real “goose” when they are told about one flying into the decoys.

            The same caution about connotations applies to two dog names that caused me great consternation while hunting ruffed grouse in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  A big male English setter by the name of “Bear” made me jump every time the dog’s master shouted at the dog in some thick, dark tangle of bearish-looking brambles.  Likewise, a Gordon setter called “Timber” had me looking up and running every time I heard her name while we were hunting in the trees.

            Likewise, avoid popular “people” names for gun dogs, especially if one of your regular fellow hunting partners is Pete, Jim, Joe, or Bob.  One season I hunted pheasants for a few days with a guy who had a young untrained and inexperience Brittany named “Chuck.”  At least that was the dog’s first name to which the owner added other deprecating terms such as “you SOB” for example.  One of the hunters in our party also was called “Chuck.”  He didn’t mind sharing his name with the dog but didn’t particularly appreciate the added adjectives.

            Finding a good, relatively original name for a new gun dog sometimes can be a daunting challenge, especially if you follow these simple guidelines.  “This is harder than naming a new baby,” the wife of a new yellow Labrador puppy owner said.  She and her husband, in search of a unique name, had been looking through a special book on choosing human baby names.  They also read through a thick phone book for the same purpose.  I haven’t heard what name they finally chose.  I sure hope it wasn’t “Honey.”


1.-2.     “Honey” might be a cute name for a new puppy.  But most hunters aren’t comfortable calling “Honey” out in a duck blind or a pheasant field.  “Always choose a name appropriate for an‘adult dog’,” is the advice of George Hickox of Grouse Wing Kennel.

3.-4.     Don’t let the “cuteness” of puppies cloud your judgment about naming your new gun dog.  “If you want to let your kids pick a name for a pup, provide three names of “your” choice, the let the kids decide on the one they like best.  This way you can achieve a compromise in the naming process that should leave everyone happy,” according to Tom Dokken of Oakridge Kennel.

5.-6.     The name “Spike” well suits the ready ruggedness of this three year old Chesapeake.  When naming a puppy try to anticipate the purpose, appearance and character of the dog when it becomes an adult.

7.-8.     “Belle” is an easy-to-call one syllable field name for this four year old English cocker.

9.         “Rex,” is a fairly common field name often used for  any breed of male gun dog, is a  one syllable word that can be hollered across the  prairie without a lot of effort.  The name also reflects the occasional regal appearance and character of this German shorthair pointer.

10.       Somehow, “Jake” was the right name from the beginning for this German wirehair pointer.

11.-12. The jury may still be out on “Speck” as the field name for this five year old English setter.  The name is one syllable, easy to call, and relatively unique.  But does “Speck” really reflect the innate beauty of this gun dog?

13.       Naming a Griffon “Bob” may seem like an easy way to come up with a simple one syllable word to call a gun dog out in the field.  But, how many hunting buddies do you have with the name Bob?  Will this cause confusion for everyone on a hunting trip?

14.       Six German shorthair pointers all have different one syllable field names.

15.       Carefully choose a good field name for your new gun dog.  A relatively unique one syllable word is preferable.  Something that reflects the purpose, appearance, and character of the pup when it becomes an adult.  Remember you will be calling this name a million times during the dog’s life-span.