When the Best in Show champ is crowned at the climax of the Westminster Kennel Club Show on Tuesday, as much fuss will be focused on the winner’s name as on its breed and aristocratic bearing. Will it beat last year’s Ch Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee or 1924’s date-stamped Ch Barberyhill Bootlegger? With all the rules and conventions that have evolved over the years, it certainly won’t return to the simplicity of the 1911 winner, Slumber.
But although those lengthy aristo names may look impressive on paper, even show dogs need an everyday “call name” for when they’re cavorting with the more ordinary mutts and pooches in the park, be it a shortening of their official name or just a more common moniker, trendy or unique.
So what are the hot dog names of today—and which are trending up? The big news is the blurring of lines between human and pet names— the most popular lists of baby and dog names aren’t that dissimilar. Of the 20 most popular names for dogs in the U.S.—according to a survey by VPI pet insurance company based on its database of 475,000 canines—18 were people names—and if you count in Buddy and Rocky, it was 100 percent. The top three: Bella, Max, Bailey.
“The undeniable trend in pet names is ‘humanization,’” says VPI’s Grant Biniasz. “Names traditionally associated with pets: Rover, Fido and Spot, for example, have been replaced by Max, Bella, and Lucy. This may be indicative of a shift in the perception of pets, from property to four-legged family members.”
Will this trend continue? Yes, though not universally (Pepper, anyone?). To try to divine the dog names of tomorrow, The Daily Beast took VPI’s numbers over the past two years, and crunched the numbers to determine the names with most upward trajectory. Some are already near the top, while others are just beginning to make their move. Either way, we have a pretty good fix on what names are destined to fill the local dog run.
1. CASEY jumped from also-ran to No. 41 over the past two years. Like several of the other rising stars, it’s a friendly Irish surname that can be used for either boys or girls. In human terms, Casey peaked for boy babies in 1987 and for girls in 1986; it’s now gone to the dogs. Two-year trend: Up 102.4 percent.
2. RILEY, on the other hand, is still a current baby name favorite—now used about twice as often for girls as boys—chasing at the heels of the Kylies and Mileys. It’s in the canine top 20, and moving fast. Two-year trend: Up 77.7 percent.
3. BELLA. The Twilight phenomenon propelled this name to the top spot in 2009. Dog experts were astonished when Bella ended the long reign of Max as Top Dog. It’s been a popular choice for mini dogs such as Justin Timberlake’s Yorkie and Demi Lovato’s shih tzu, as well as Elle McPherson’s labradoodle. Another possibility: Esmé, Twilight’s vampire matriarch of the Olympic coven. Two-year trend: Up 75 percent.
4. BAILEY joins Casey in the trend toward more ambiguous, less gender-specific names, unlike the old macho Busters and femme Missys. It’s now the No. 3 name in the country, yapping at the heels of Bella and Max, perhaps helped by its slight alcoholic tinge (reminiscent of former favorite name Brandy). The singer Pink, onetime owner of an unprintably named pooch, has lately opted for this more benign choice. Two-year trend: Up 66.6 percent.
Click Image To View Our Gallery Of Westminster’s Top Dogs: 2000-2009
5. SHADOW is the new Blackie—the dark dog favorite du jour. Other dark choices include Jet, Bruno, Bear, Sable, Midnight, Inky, and Ebony. In the 2006 adventure film Eight Below, Shadow was the name of one of the Alaskan Malamute sled dogs, which might have brought it to the attention of the dog-naming public. Can be seen as either slightly sinister or companionable, as in “Me and my shadow.” Two-year trend: Up 59.3 percent.
6. COCO is a favorite choice for Chihuahuas and their similarly size cousins, having a modicum of continental flair à la Chanel, Fifi, Lulu and Gigi. And as long as little lapdogs continue to increase in popularity, so will this genre of names. There is also a trend toward ‘O’-ending names, such as Leo, Romeo, Rocco, Oreo, Gizmo and Milo. One of Snoop Dogg’s dogs is named Coco. Two-year trend: Up 56.25 percent.
7. PEPPER is another logical choice for a dark-coated, or, better still, a salt-and-pepper speckled dog. This is a somewhat retro choice, harking back to the time when pups were named more for their physical appearance, as in Freckles, Spot, Whitey and Tawny. A surprising new entry on the 2009 list in this category is Oreo, a sweet black-and-white choice. Two-year trend: Up 56 percent.
8. DAKOTA is a unisex name in the wide-open Western place name mode. It’s a genre that has pretty much ridden off the baby name map, having peaked in the mid-'90s, along with Sierra and Cheyenne, but is still considered cool for canines. Two-year trend: Up 44.5 percent.
9. CHLOE is a perfect example of the confluence of human and dog name popularity. Currently in the human top 10, Chloe’s canine identity was firmly established as the appealing bitch protagonist of the 2008 film The Beverly Hills Chihuahua, voiced by Drew Barrymore, and the name has made many print media appearances as the fluffy Maltese in the arms of Lindsay Lohan. Two-year trend: Up 33.3 percent.
10. OLIVER is a name that has long been used for dogs. Curiously, its twin Olivia, now No. 6 for girl babies, does not show up at all on the canine list. Rhianna is seen around town with the Maltipoo she christened Oliver. Two-year trend: Up 33.3 percent.
And the runners-up are: