Dog names show trends in Western Pennsylvania

| Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, 11:12 p.m.

Pet groomer Carrie Carrigansays she's instinctively wary every time she gets a dog named Maggie at Tailwaggers Pet Grooming in Harrison.

“I'll ask the owner the name, and they'll say ‘Maggie,' and I think ‘OK, here we go,' ” she said.

In her experience, Maggies are much like dogs named Angel — they're anything but.

Alas, Maggie is one of the most popular dog names of 2015 in Allegheny, Armstrong and Westmoreland counties, according to an analysis of this year's dog license data.

Bella tops the list as the most popular female dog name in all three counties.

Others in the top five in Westmoreland are Molly, Lucy, Sadie and Daisy — the same top names given to female dogs in Allegheny County's suburbs.

In Armstrong County, Molly, Sadie, Maggie and Chloe round out the top five most popular female dog names.

“For me, my number one name is Bella; I have a ton of Bellas,” said Chrissy Werner, owner of LolliPUPS Pet Grooming in New Kensington.

“A lot of people who name their dogs Bella, they seem to have little girls,” she said. “And Italian people name their dog Bella, too.”

Bella means beautiful in Italian.

Cheryl Landis of Allegheny Township named her cocker spaniel Bella when they adopted her eight years ago because it just seemed to fit.

“My friend owned (a dog spa), and there was a groomer there,” Landis said, “and she went to leave for work and there was a cocker spaniel puppy tied to the doorknob.

“It had a rhinestone collar and a pink leash with rhinestones.”

Landis and her husband, Tim, had been considering getting a dog and decided to adopt her.

“At the time she just looked like a sweet little Bella for us,” she said.

At Pet Perfection Grooming Salon in Lower Burrell, owners bring in dogs named Bella, Sadie or Buddy every day, said owner Duey Taylor. Occasionally they'll see an Ari or Kazar, she said.

“There really are a lot of unusual names, but truthfully, the most common are from cartoons, like Mr. Pickles,” she said.

Male dog names

The five most popular names for male dogs are also similar across counties.

In Westmoreland the top five are Buddy, Max, Bailey, Bear and Harley, records show. Buddy and Max take the top two spots in Allegheny and Armstrong counties.

Allegheny County residents also chose Charlie, Rocky and Toby as other top dog names, data show. In Armstrong County other popular names were Bear, Duke and Buster.

An Internet search turns up dozens of articles giving advice on how to pick dogs' names. Some suggestions seem to be universal; others contradict each other.

“There's no science on dog-naming. It's just common sense,” said Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist at Columbia University's Barnard College who studies how dogs think.

Pick a name you don't mind repeating and that can't be confused with the names for people or other pets in the household, Horowitz said.

Research shows that dogs respond more readily to short, rising sounds than long, falling sounds, and it's more difficult to say a one-syllable name with a rising inflection.

“I don't think a one-syllable name is bad,” she said. “It's just that the dog needs to be able to distinguish it from the other words that owners say.”

Joe Orsino Jr. of Plum, owner of Mr. O's The Dog Training Place in Lower Burrell, said a dog's name is a vital factor in training.

“You want them to focus on their name,” he said. “When you call your dog's name, you want it to respond in an appropriate manner.”

Orsino said the more meaning the name has for an owner, the better a dog will respond to it because the owner puts emotion and inflection into a name they like.

Carrigan, of Harrison, who breeds Great Danes and English bulldogs, said she avoids common names for her pets.

“I would never name my dog a common name because, with common names, I think of another dog,” she said. She's chosen names like Jordan and Orbit.

Werner said her family named their mixed-breed dog Ruby because of how she was found.

Her fiancé, Kevin Giunta, was on a job in Tennessee when he noticed a co-worker playing with a puppy.

“The guy who rescued her, he was putting things in the Dumpster and heard something and found the puppy,” said Werner, of Lower Burrell.

Giunta's co-worker asked if he wanted the puppy and, after checking with Werner, he took it.

“So the saying is ‘one man's trash is another man's treasure,' so we thought about gems and we just kind of named her Ruby,” she said. “We just love her. She is such a treasure found among trash.”

Jodi Weigand is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or Brian Bowling and Kari Andren contributed. Reach Bowling at 412-325-4301. Reach Andren at 724-850-2856.

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