Old School Dog Names You Don’t Hear Anymore

Old school dog names are being replaced more often these days by human monikers, such as Molly and Charlie. By: Beverly & Pack

Lola, Rocky, Bailey, Max, Maggie — any of these names sound familiar?

They should — they are some of the most popular dog names of 2012, and more and more, owners are choosing these lovable monikers, along with Cooper, Molly, Daisy and Charlie, for their pets. The rising trend in anthropomorphizing our animals is fueled by several factors, including giving them human names.

But what happened to old school names like Fido, Rover and Lady for our pooches? Are they too stale and overused in our collective historical consciousness? Where did they come from, and why did they come to represent the archetypal pet for so long?

1. Spot

See Spot run? Not much anymore. But starting in the 1930s, Spot was the widely known puppy of Dick and Jane, the title characters of reading and phonics books by William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp. The entire series of Dick and Jane was published over a span of 40 years, so it’s no small wonder the name Spot stayed relevant for so long.

  • Fun fact: Interestingly enough, the character Spot actually started its literary life as a cat.

In 1980, Spot was reinforced as a pet name by the publication and popularity of another children’s book, Spot the Dog, by Eric Hill, in which the dog actually wore spots of brown on his golden coat.

Dalmatians were also known as popular recipients of the name Spot.

2. Rover

Rover is a common sobriquet for unknown pooches (like John Doe, only for dogs), but there’s little evidence of the name’s origin. “Rover” in English means “one that roams around”; it seems natural to brand canines, which boast unmatched olfactory senses and curious natures, with such a name.

In 1905, the British silent film Rescued by Rover by Cecil Milton Hepworth included the first onscreen canine hero. The dog was a collie and no doubt paved the way for the classic Lassie films and television series to take hold of America’s heart. Watch the beautiful dog in action here:

A children’s game, Red Rover, gained popularity in the 19th century, but the game contains no allusion to dogs. This anonymous poster also puts in his two cents regarding the origins of the name “Rover,” but the claims remain as yet unsubstantiated.

Curiously, “røver” means “pirate” in Norwegian. So if you’re looking for an old school name for your dog with a twist, “Røver” may fit the bill nicely.

3. Fido

From the Latin term for “faithful” (fidelitas), Fido is possibly best known historically as President Abraham Lincoln’s trusty pet. The dog’s pedigree remains unknown, but it is confirmed that the dog was born around 1855 and died a little less than a year after the president’s assassination.

Lincoln apparently left his beloved pet with neighbors in Springfield, Illinois, after his election because he didn’t think the political atmosphere would agree with Fido. He left strict instructions for the new owners to treat Fido in the best manner possible; they ended up bringing the dog to Lincoln’s funeral to meet his mourners.

Today, Fido is a quintessential everydog name, and although we rarely know a dog by that name now, we still know what it signifies.

Lady was a popular dog name only a few short years ago. By: Karen Horton

4. Lady

It is noted in history that Walt Disney’s family owned a pet poodle by the name of Lady; in 1955, Disney produced the animated feature Lady and the Tramp, a story of two dogs from different backgrounds finding love in the big city. Lady, a cocker spaniel, has pedigree, class and a collar with a license, setting her apart from the rest of her canine gang.

In 2008, Lady was actually the most popular dog name in the U.S., according to the American Kennel Club; the name connotes upward mobility, grace, finesse and good upbringing. But in recent years, the name has slipped several spots to favor dog names of a more relatable, down-home nature, such as Maggie and Molly.

Human Names for Dogs

In recent years, we’ve seen  lists of most popular dog names and most popular children’s names sharing the same monikers; this suggests that we’re no longer looking for animals to keep us company — we’re looking for family members.

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  • Debbie

    I have to admit we favor “people names” for our canine and feline furkids, and even for some of our horses. However, I named one of our cats “Puff” for his very fluffy coat, and I read recently that the Dick and Jane books also featured a cat named Puff. I help name shelter cats (usually my fosters), so I’m always looking for unique, pretty, but positive pet names.

  • Laurie P

    We seem to gravitate to favorite characters like Anakin, Chewie, Rikki. But we also have had Boots, Bandit, Buddy, Chrissy, Gretchen and Maya. Some of our dogs already were named when we aquired them tho’ and we did not want to confuse them.so we seem to not have any kind of pattern.

  • Shazza

    My pets are often named after comic book and/or fictional characters. Currently, I have Rogue, Pewter (after a pet in mystery series), and Vinnie (after a particular actor).

  • mjeam

    Absolutely loved the old Rover movie. Will be passing it on