The Old Trainer: Dogs can quickly adapt to a new name as long as there’s plenty of love to go with it

12/27/2013 7:00 PM

12/27/2013 7:01 PM

D ear Old Trainer: My brother and I got a real good shepherd police dog for Christmas. His name in the pound was Wily and he is 2 years old, but we don’t like that name because he is a big tough dog. We want to name him Thunder. I am 11 and my brother is 9. Our mom said to ask you so we will know if it is OK to change a grown dog’s name – so is it? And will he be sad if he doesn’t like his new name?

– Luke,


Dear Luke: Don’t worry about Thunder being sad. He is so smart he will learn his new name in one day. He doesn’t care what you call him as long as you give him plenty of love and play with him every day.

One of the things you will discover about your new dog is he likes the same things you do. Whatever you and your brother like to do, he will like to do. Any game you play, he will jump in and play it with you. He will be so happy to have two little boys to love and protect, he’ll think it’s fine if you want to change his name. If you like Thunder, then he is sure to like it.

But just to make sure, talk it over with him first. Tell him you like the name and think it fits him and say it to him a few times. If he wags his tail it means he likes it. Every time you say the name and he looks at you or wags his tail, pet him and tell him he is a good boy.

Dear Old Trainer: We got Willie and Annie, yellow labs, when they were puppies. We recently lost Annie and Willie is really lonely. We went to the shelter and found Misty who we both love, but she is a terrier-Maltese mix and is tiny compared to Willie. Can two dogs so far apart in size become friends?

– Marilyn,


Dear Marilyn: Of course. Dogs pay no attention to size, color or other external attributes. That’s one reason we love them. Dogs naturally like other dogs, so Willie and Misty will become best friends no matter what size they are.

Take Willie to the shelter and hold their first meeting there. When you bring Misty home, let her and Willie explore around the yard. Leave them alone and let them interact on their own before you bring them inside.

It takes time to establish order in a new pack, so don’t worry if Willie gets a little testy about his turf. It’s your job as leader to keep order, but give them space to establish pack order and figure things out on their own.

Feed them at the same time, but far enough apart – 10 feet or so – neither feels the other is intruding. Make a bed for Misty a few feet from Willie and let them decide on their sleeping arrangement.

Congratulations on adopting from a shelter. You discovered what many people already know – shelters and rescue groups are full of wonderful dogs that make perfect companions.

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