Naming In The News

DOTUS For the First Dog? Experts Offer First Family Tips to Chew On When Naming First Dog

January 29, 2009 — Minneapolis, MN

MINNEAPOLIS (Jan. 29, 2009) – Choosing a name for the First Dog is an undertaking that could rival the appointment of a cabinet member – minus the congressional approval, according to Strategic Name Development, a national firm responsible for names such as Wendy’s Baconator™ and Bayer’s pet-tracking chip, ResQ®.

That in mind, Strategic Name Development offers its PETNAME checklist to the First Family to assist with the process of naming their new dog:

  • Politically optimistic - Gerald Ford’s dog, ‘Liberty,’ Richard Nixon’s, ‘Vicky’ (which means victory) and Jimmy Carter’s ‘Grits’ are on the right scent. Conversely, Rutherford B. Hayes and Calvin Coolidge may have sent the wrong signals with names like ‘Grim’ and ‘Calamity Jane.’
  • Easy to pronounce – and easy to spell. Lincoln’s dog was named Jip, which was often spelled Gyp.
  • Tell a story –the name should say something about character, history or pedigree. Kennedy’s dog, Shannon, was a gift from the president of Ireland.
  • No more than two syllables – the longer the name, the harder to train.
  • Atypical – avoid the obvious – Max, Sam, Lady, Bear, Buddy, Smokey, Shadow.
  • Made in America - Avoid foreign sounding names like Manchu (Theodore Roosevelt) Caruso (Taft) and Pushinka (Kennedy).
  • End with a vowel sound – Pet names ending in vowels like Fido (Lincoln) and Barney (Bush 43) are significantly easier for your pets to hear. This is good insurance for a president who wants to make sure that no matter what he does, there is still one living being who will listen to him.

Using this criteria, here are some suggested names from Strategic Name Development for the First Dog:

  • DOTUS - If the President of the United States is POTUS, than the First Dog should be DOTUS.
  • Barelle - Combines the first syllable of Barack with the last syllable of Michelle and is easy on the ears.
  • Harpo - Oprah, one of Obama’s strongest supporters, spelled backwards.
  • Lincoln - In honor of Obama’s presidential hero, signifies a link to the future.
  • RahmRod - Combination of Obama’s top dogs Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod; signals that the president is serious about change.

For The People, By The People

In addition, Strategic Name Development recently conducted a survey of Obama supporters and found that nearly one in four preferred a pet named in honor of a well-known person – either real or fictional. Names ranged from Scooby and Linus to George Washington, Cleopatra, Garrison Keillor and even poet Edith Sitwell.

“If the First Family chooses to follow the paths their supporters recommended, they may decide on a well-known personality’s name for the dog just as other American presidents have done including Calvin Coolidge, who owned a terrier named Peter Pan, and Lyndon Johnson, who named his beagle J. Edgar,” said Diane Prange, Chief Linguistics Officer. “Either way, this dog will be famous and the name will live in perpetuity, so it's important that they find a name fitting for a First Dog.”

The study also revealed that by a margin of almost two to one, fictional names are preferred over actual names – most of which are two syllables and end in an ear-pleasing vowel – Mickey and Shaggy. For pets, as it is often for brands, sound trumps meaning.

Other survey findings include:

  • One in 10 Obama supporters elected to name their pets after an existing consumer brand. Among the choices were Hershey, Snickers, Ricoh, Adidas and Nike.
  • Physicality plays an important role in Obama followers’ pet naming.
    • 7 percent named their pets based on color - Goldie, Rusty, Red, Onyx.
    • 7 percent used size as the inspiration - Itsey, Magnus, Half-Pint.
  • 16 percent of Obama supporters used virtue as the guide for their pets’ names. While four in five virtue names are positive - Faith, Frank, Dexter, Precious - there is also a flip side to virtue – Bandit, Misfit, Jinxie and Biff.
  • Other popular naming categories include:
    • Objects (9 percent) – Shamrock, Cashmere, Snowball.
    • Personality Traits (9 percent) – Lovey, Maverick (sic), Turbo and Scamper.
    • Theronyms (animal names) (9 percent) - D’og, Moose, Panda.

Strategic Name Development surveyed 487 US citizens, at random, who owned a pet and supported Barack Obama in the recent presidential election using Survey Sampling’s national online panel. The survey and subsequent market analysis were conducted in late 2008 and balanced by age, income, gender and U.S. Census region. The findings are significant at 95 percent confidence.

Strategic Name Development

Strategic Name Development, Inc., a brand naming consultancy, has expertise in global product naming, company naming, tagline development, and brand architecture. We utilize our global capabilities while combining linguistics, creativity, and brand name research to build global brand names that are instantly recognizable, memorable, trademarkable, and strategically sound. We augment our naming expertise with our global proprietary Name DNA Validation™ research methodology, which compares name candidates to each other and against our proprietary normative database. For more information on Strategic Name Development visit

Contact Information

William Lozito
Chief Branding Officer