As soon as my grandson found out we were looking at a home with a fence he decided we were going to get a dog. I’d been fighting my doctor for two years about adding a dog to my ever-growing list of treatments for level 10 migraines and PTSD and anxiety from a car wreck.

I explained to my grandson that yes, we were moving to Oshkosh, yes, there was a fence, no, we were not getting a dog. We have a dog. Before I ever met my dog or knew anything about how to get one Lucien said we needed to name it Coconut. His five-year-old simplistic explanation was that since the dog’s mommy and daddy were from Hawaii it made sense. Did I want to name it Pineapple? So, Niki, named by the Kentucky shelter, became Coconut. By this reasoning, I should have named him Mai Tai. Next dog.

People who knew I was getting a dog were divided into two camps on the whole renaming game. Some were horrified that I would strip away a dog’s identity by stealing the one thing that was his after being spirited away to a new state, leaving all that was near and dear to him. The dog was a stray. Judging by the records he was called Niki for a mere three weeks. I highly doubt he had an attachment to that particular name as much as an instant attachment to the hand feeding him since he was starving. The other camp urged me to make this new dog mine by choosing a name that fit his personality. All I knew is that I have a son named Nick and I sure didn’t want the confusion of having a dog named a Niki.

We get this question all the time. Is it okay to rename your rescue dog? Yes, you can rename your dog, and changing the name is easy. They don’t care what you call them as long as they understand that you matter more than any name. You are the reason they have a warm home, good food, toys, snuggles, and love. You are the source of all that is good in this dog’s life.

If your new pooch was an owner surrender, their name may be familiar to them and keeping it can be a source of stability and security while he or she settles in (you can still change it when you feel the time is right).

In most cases, your new dog has a name that was slapped on with very little thought and so renaming is not a big deal. In fact, the name might even have bad connotations so renaming him could be an act of kindness. Your dog is getting a new life, why not a new name to go along with it?

Coconut’s name was given to please my grandson. Looking back on the whole thing maybe I jumped too quickly, but it seems to fit him, people like it, he comes when called, sometimes at least, and it’s fun. Here are a few tips on renaming your dog.

1. Take your time. You don’t need a name to engrave on the new dog tags the minute you finalize the adoption.  Wait a few days, get to know their personality and quirks, look at the coat markings, distinguishing traits, energy level, and more. The most important thing at this point is bonding. So, calling out, “Here, Girl” or “Come, Boy,” works just fine followed by praise and a few dog treats.  Your dog is just getting to know you, and for the time being, will respond to your upbeat voice and body language.

2. Train your dog with treats. For the first few days you’re using your dog’s new name, carry treats in your pocket. When you want her attention, call out her new name, smile, praise her liberally, and treat her; do this even if she is unresponsive—she will soon learn the new word means good things are coming and will begin to acknowledge it every time she hears it. Make sure the treats are natural with no fillers and that they don’t add more calories to the daily diet.

3. Combine the old dog name with the new one. If her old name is long established, smoosh it together with her new name and call her by both for a while. For example, if Bobbi is to be Sox because of her gleaming white paws, then you can call her BobbiSox for a while and then drop the Bobbi until you are left with the name Sox. Dogs are smart and they are really responding to you, the treats, and the Bond you create more than to the new name.

Here are some name sites to get you started. It’s never too late to change a dog’s name. This is now your dog so make sure it’s a name that works for you and everyone in your household.