The only thing more exciting than picking out a new puppy from the litter is naming it. In theory the list of names we have to choose from is infinite. And yet so often we go back to the well, so to speak, and choose names that are overdone, played out and cliché.
On the other hand, maybe such names are popular because they’re just so darn fitting for the hopes and dreams we have for our bird dog pups. Regardless, there are a few names you hear over and over again. And maybe that’s okay. The first cliché name on the list below happens to be the one I’ve selected for my new puppy. I know it isn’t original, but I think it suits him. Isn’t that what’s most important?
Man buys great hunting dog. Great hunting dog has puppies. Man keeps puppy. Man names puppy “Junior.”
If you ever meet a dog named Junior you can rest assured that this was the cycle of events. We gundog folks are a sentimental crowd, and so often we want to honor a great dog by passing on the Junior moniker to the next generation. Typically a pup is named Junior when Senior is getting along in years, and the owner senses it’s time for Senior to take a well-deserved spot on the couch while Junior carries the torch.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. However, a word of caution: Fight the temptation to compare Junior to Senior. It’s human nature to do so, but it’s completely unfair. Should Michael Jordan’s son be considered a failure if he never wins an NBA championship? Let Junior develop and be the dog he was born to be.
There are no statistics on the subject of which I’m aware, but I suspect “Drake” is the most common name among duck dogs in America. It makes sense, I suppose. They hunt drakes. They are rugged, athletic animals, and the name drake has a certain, powerful ring to it. And those of us with a fondness for waterfowl just seem to like the thoughts it conjures.
Arguably the name was further popularized by Drake the DU Dog, the official Labrador retriever mascot of Ducks Unlimited. However, the name was already pretty popular prior to 2000, when Drake assumed his role at DU.
The name “Duke” just sounds like a dog’s name. Heck, even the people named Duke you meet seem to have a little canine in them.
So it’s no wonder it’s a popular choice. One old coon hunter I met really takes this one to extremes, though. He’s named every hound in his kennel Duke. There’s Duke I, Duke II, Duke III… well, actually by now he’s well into the double-digit Dukes. According to him, dogs all look like they ought to be named Duke.
Based on the number of Dukes I’ve shot birds with throughout the years, many agree.
The word invokes thoughts of speed, power and energy—traits that embody a high-octane dog coursing the fields. Plus if it weren’t for ammo, we’d be out of a few of our favorite hobbies. So why not name that new pup after something else you have a fondness for?
The biggest trouble with this particular name is that it ends in ‘O’—some trainers advise against this, because names that sound a lot like the command “no” can lead to confused dogs.
I’ve hunted over a German shorthair named Beretta, a Lab named Purdey and a springer named Briley, but it seems no sporting manufacturer has caught on like the name Remington. Perhaps because when you shorten it to “Remi” (pronounced REM-ee) it has such a nice ring to it. Or because the Remington 870 is the best-selling shotgun of all time, and it remains popular in duck blinds despite decades of semi-auto innovation. But I think the biggest motivation for naming a dog Remington is that, like other names on the list, it leaves no doubt the dog was born to hunt.
Hey, you hope that your dog’s efforts result in pulling the trigger a time or two, right? The trigger is your finger’s happy place, so why not name your dog for it? Apparently this logic makes good sense to many hunters among us.
One of my earliest memories is hunting pheasants with my father and a yellow Lab named Rocky. At the time I thought both my old man and that dog were 100-percent infallible. It wasn’t until later that I learned my dad wasn’t perfect, that Rocky would occasionally run off and that his name wasn’t as unique as I imagined.
Like the names Drake and Duke, Rocky just sounds tough. You wouldn’t expect a dog named Stanley to course the uplands all day or bust through ice and snow to fetch a wounded mallard. But Rocky on the other hand—that’s a dog that’ll get the job done.
There are a few names on this list that could be used for any old pet. Or even a human. But not Gunner. It is uniquely applied to dogs whose purpose in life involves guns. However, it’s not so unique among the sporting breeds. I’ve met about a half dozen Gunners, and surely not the last.
This list is by no means complete. I’ll bet you’ve hunted over some dogs, or even owned a few, with less-than-original names. What names would you add to the collection?