From Lassie to Charlie – this is how dog names have changed over the decades | TeamDogs
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From Lassie to Charlie – this is how dog names have changed over the decades

How we name our dogs has a lot to do with the time we live in.

Susan Griffin

Posted 2 months ago

What’s in a name you may ask? Well, plenty, it turns out, particularly where your four-legged friend’s concerned.

You might think you’ve chosen a name simply because you like the sound of it, but there’s a whole of host of reasons why you’ve plumped for a certain moniker for your pup, and you might not even be aware of it.

Cultural influences seep into our subconscious from the things we see and hear in the world, and of course, those evolve over the years.

Now, for the first time, researchers have been analysing pet burial records and memorials as well as data to discover the most popular pet names over the last 70 years and examining how these might reflect changing trends.

Among their findings, they discovered the top three pet names in the Seventies were Penny, Sandy, and Lassie.

Presuming it’s events from previous years that impact names (given the average lifespan of pets), could the enduring success of The Beatles’ 1967 hit Penny Lane have contributed to Penny claiming the number one spot?

Maybe the popularity of Sandie Shaw, winner of the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest and one of most successful female singers during that period, might explain spot number two, and of course, there was a certain fictional Rough Collie by the name of Lassie who always saved the day in the hugely popular film and TV adaptations of Eric Knight’s stories.

But this is just a snapshot of the deductions made by researchers at FirstVet (www.firstvet.com/uk), a video consultation platform for pets, who collaborated with expert Dr Eric Tourigny, Lecturer in Historical Archaeology at Newcastle University.

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Dr Tourigny’s spent several years studying pet memorials in the UK (including Hyde Park Pet Cemetery, The PDSA Animal Cemetery in Ilford, and the Northumberland Park Pet Cemetery) and so the researchers asked him to open his archive of data profiling over 1,000 interred animals and combined that with their analysis of publicly available sources.

“Because historic records documenting pet names do not go back very far, pet cemeteries present an opportunity to capture naming practices in an earlier time,” remarks Dr Tourigny, author of Do all dogs go to heaven? Tracking human-animal relationships through the archaeological survey of pet cemeteries.

“The characterisation of pet names alongside other information presented on gravestones reveal changing pet-owner dynamics and the shifting role of pets within the society, from friends to family members. As well as this, pet names carry cultural information as people are inspired by the societies in which they live when choosing a name. Further research into this area will help us to better understand our perpetually changing relationship with our pets.”

One of the most interesting findings is that Britons have shown a tendency to give their pets human-sounding names throughout the whole 20th century.

Researchers believe this could be attributed, at least in part, to a series of reductions in the UK’s birth rate. In the absence of children, pets may have become more integral parts of the family unit. This is also associated with an increased use of terms like ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’ used to describe people’s relationship with pets on gravestones.

They’ve highlighted that in 2019, when the UK birth-rate hit an all-time low, nine out of the top 10 names given to the nation’s puppies and kittens were also shared by Britain’s newborn babies.

“Naming a pet is one of the strongest indicators of human love and companionship, which is what inspired us to conduct this intriguing analysis of how Britons have named their furry friends over the last century,” says David Prien, Co-Founder and CEO at FirstVet.

“Our vets are often surprised and impressed by the creativity of owners when it comes to naming their much-loved pets. It is unsurprising to see that what we call our companions often reflects the popular culture of the time, as we ordain these new members of the family with titles adopted from TV or film.”


The most popular pet names through the decades - can you identify the most probable cultural influences?

1950s: Judy, Peter, Monty

1960s: Peter, Rex, Lassie

1970s: Penny, Sandy, Lassie

1980s: Ben, Sam, Max

1990s: Ben, Sam, Charlie

2000s: Molly, Charlie, Max

2010s: Bella, Charlie, Alfie

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