The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Gundog names

Purdey may well be popular as a gundog name but, says David Tomlinson, your dog must always be clear who is being called

Gundog names

Response to a name is, arguably, the most important thing that you can ask of a dog

I recently met a chap with a pair of black labradors named James and Thomas. He explained: “I was going to call them Purdey and Boss, after the shotgun manufacturers; however, my wife vetoed that, so I opted for first names instead — as in James Purdey and William Boss. So I won, really, and the dogs respond just as well to James and Thomas as they would have done to Purdey and Boss. It was a good decision, as I’ve joined a new syndicate where there are already two dogs named Purdey, so at least it avoids any confusion.”

Gundog names – Purdey?

When it comes to working gundog names, I am sure that there are more Purdeys than anything else. I’ve no doubt it reflects the fact that many shooting men would like a Purdey shotgun but have to make do with a dog called Purdey instead. As dog names go, it’s not a bad one as it rolls easily off the tongue. I have yet to meet a dog called Browning or Beretta, but no doubt there are a few, while if you call your dog Churchill most people will assume that you have named it after our former prime minister, not the gun manufacturer EJ Churchill.

Bird names are popular for gundogs, with Teal probably the favourite choice, especially for cockers. (Read  10 things to know when naming your gundog puppy) Teal are our smallest ducks, so it wouldn’t be fitting to call a Chesapeake by such a name. I’ve met a few dogs called Wigeon, usually belonging to wildfowlers, and I once met a black labrador called Brent, after the goose. The Americans call brent geese brant, so no doubt there are American duck hunters with dogs called Brant rather than Brent.

Choosing a dog’s name is always a challenge. When my wife and I bred springers, we would always name the puppies. It’s remarkable how many of them retained their names after leaving home, as it saved the new owners having to make a difficult decision. We used to have a theme for our puppy names, such as tennis players or trees. Thus we once had a Boris and a Steffi (you can tell how long ago that litter was born by when Boris Becker and Steffi Graf were still at their peak), while the tree theme included an Ash, an Oak and a Rowan. The latter was the dog we kept but I always had to explain that she took her name from the tree, not the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

My current sprocker, Emma, wasn’t named after Jane Austen’s heroine but after a storm that ripped through southern Spain in March 2018, depositing 10in of rain in 14 days. I happened to be in Andalucia at the time when I had an email from her breeder telling me that her litter had been born. Thus Emma seemed an appropriate name for her, while at the time we didn’t have any human friends called Emma. I’m pleased to say that Emma’s temperament is anything but stormy.

It’s always a little dangerous to use a human name for a dog, as it can lead to confusion. A labrador-owning friend of mine always confused us by having a daughter called Gilly and a bitch called Gillie, so we were often puzzled as to whom she was talking about. Even non-human names can create problems. I recall a golden retriever called Major. It was a bad-tempered dog that was, I suspect, partially deaf. His owner joined a syndicate run by an ex-military gentleman who was always known as the Major. On a shooting day a shout of “Major” would more likely gain a response from the man than the dog, which rarely responded to its name.

Easy to recognise

Response to a name is arguably the most important thing you ask of a dog. Thus it pays to have a name that the dog finds easy to recognise. I once picked up with a handler whose six immaculately trained labradors would all sit next to him, off leads, during a drive. When a bird was down and he wanted it picked he would simply whisper the name of the dog he wanted to send, and it would instantly be off for the retrieve. He had sensibly given each dog quite different-sounding names so there was no confusion.

If you are stumped for gundog names, you can always turn to the internet. According to one website, the top five names for bitches in the UK last year were Luna, Bella, Lola, Poppy and Coco, while for dogs they were Milo, Teddy, Buddy, Alfie and Max. A little more research produced 70 names deemed suitable for American hunting dogs, with Remington and Ruger featuring along with Texas and Yukon, though I would be wary of one of the suggestions, Chase, as it might give the dog the wrong idea.

Foxhounds always have the most delightful names. In the appendix of my 1894 copy of Hunting, written by the 8th Duke of Beaufort, there’s a long list of hound names. It’s a tradition with foxhounds for all the puppies from a litter to have names beginning with the same letter, such as Candour, Carnage, Charity and Concord. If you’re stuck for inspiration for naming a gundog puppy, this is a good place to look.