10 Most Popular Dog Names of 2021
From old-school classics to pop-culture trends, these were the top dog names of the past year.
Sign up for The Wildest newsletter for updates
2021 was a lot: Daft Punk broke up. Pete Davidson and Kim Kardashian started dating. And COVID-19 released a few new flavors in the form of the Omicron and Delta variants. But against the backdrop of a pandemic continuing to ravage our everyday lives and Pete Davidson’s commitment towards being in every “it” couple, there were a few positives. Namely, people kept getting new dogs!
And there’s nothing more important in a new pet parent’s life than the naming process. Despite the fact we will all inevitably give our pups roughly 900 or so nicknames, the first one is crucial. So how did the events of last year impact dog naming best practices? Apparently, many consulted Disney or turned to timeless monikers that originated in a time before masks were required or hot dudes could come from Staten Island. According to the Wildest subscribers, these were the 10 most popular names of 2021, in descending order.
The Wildest Reader’s Top Dog Names
Just barely breaking the 10 ten is the god of mischief, Loki. This is indicative of a few trends. First, Marvel has maintained its supreme rule over pop-culture relevance for well over a decade now. As someone who grew up on comics, if you were to tell me 20 years ago that Thor would not only lead a film franchise, but that it’d be so successful to warrant a spin-off series centered around its villain on Disney Plus, I would have been flabbergasted (not to mention confused AF to what the hell Disney Plus was). That being said, of a billion-dollar cinematic universe, the gender-fluid anti-hero being the most popular character among dog parents, is a good sign of society’s collective progress.
Would love to think this namesake is related to Elf’s reaffirmation as a holiday masterpiece, however, it is far more likely this trend reflects pet parents’ desire to turn back time. Buddy is a classic dog name, just like Spike or Charlie. Not to mention it’s fitting as well; our dogs are nothing if not our best buds. Moreover, in a post-Buffy the Vampire Slayer world, Spike just has a different, darker connotation.
Two-for-three on names inspired by Disney-owned properties so far. If the House of Mouse shooting nearly 70% didn’t make it clear, people turn to comfortable, warm, and easily digestible art during times of turmoil. Then name their pets after the characters. With Coco being one of Pixar’s recent blockbusters it’s only natural that it’d show up on this list.
As much as I desperately want this to be a reflection of my fellow millennials finally recognizing one of the greatest punk bands of all time and, in turn, naming their pup after its semi-autobiographical mascot, I know that is but a dream. Milo is another classic dog name and indication most people understandably didn’t have the energy to deviate from traditional monikers this year. Besides, if Milo names were a reference to anything in 2021, it’d be to the absurdly charming dad from This Is Us, played by Milo Ventimiglia. Obviously.
As previously mentioned, you can’t go wrong with this one. Naming your dog Charlie is like cutting gluten from your diet. It may not sound super interesting, but so many people do it because it works.
I could try and scavenge some existential meaning behind this selection, such as us all hoping to beautifully bloom like a daisy flower following the intense rainstorm that was the last year. But let’s be honest, Daisy is essentially the female version of Buddy. This is a go-to name, cemented in the top 10.
Consider Goldilocks and the Three Bears. If childhood has taught us anything, finding the perfect name has to be “just right.” Seems like many pet parents have taken a cue from this fairytale classic, swapping one furry character for another.
Entering the top three, we have another classic. I can only hope the people who named their dogs Max had an easier time getting there than HBO did with its streaming service. “Come here, Go” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Forget Team Edward or Jacob — the only name that matters is Bella. If Kristen Stewart’s Oscar-worthy turn as the People’s Princess in Spencer didn’t make it clear, it’s time to recognize her acting chops, the criminally underrated Twilight performance included. Bella is a winner.
The number one spot belongs to Luna. Maybe people are still attached to the best Harry Potter character, Luna Lovegood, or possibly they noticed John Legend and Chrissy Teigen christen their daughter with the name and fell in love with it. Latin for moon, Luna is fitting nonetheless. A sign of a turning point and brighter days ahead (we hope). It’s worth noting that Luna also cracked the top 10 of popular human baby names in 2021. One can only hope none of these occurred in the same household.
Top Dog Names in the U.S. in 2021
Rover conducted a national survey to grasp an even clearer picture of what names dog parents gravitated towards in 2021. While the top slots are generally in line with our subscribers highlighted mostly by classics such as Luna, Charlie, Bella, and Max, there were some themes that emerged relevant to the year’s unique circumstances. Especially in comparison to their 2020 findings, a few insights became immediately clear.
For one, COVID-related names continue to rise in popularity. Whether it’s a self-inflicted form of exposure therapy or a humorous ploy to feel more control over the situation, people seem to want a cute and constant reminder that it’s been terrifying to do anything the last 24 months. Fauci, Covid, and Zoom were all high-ranking names from 2020 that continued to fly up the charts in 2021, with Pfizer and Vax as new additions to the category.
Following a year postponement and a fairly notable dip in viewership, it might come as a surprise that the Tokyo Olympics were seemingly big winners of the dog naming sweepstakes in 2021. Katie, Tom, Naomi, Simone, and Suni were all common pup names. Never one to be outdone by, well, anyone, Disney’s recent Star Wars projects also proved popular for namesake inspiration. Baby Yoda and Mandalorian continued their pet moniker momentum from 2020, while Grogu exploded with a +4,000% increase in prominence.
Facing a Naming Conundrum?
If you’re someone who recently adopted a new dog or has plans to in 2022, that may have been a lot to digest. Naming is clearly important and that can create a lot of pressure to get it right. Luckily, there are a few tricks to picking a solid pet name — one deserving of its multiple inevitable variations. First off, don’t feel rushed. John Wick has gone three movies still referring to his adorable and loyal Pit Bull as merely “dog.” If Keanu is taking his time, so can you.
Though as you brainstorm, remember that simplicity is key. No one wants to refer to a dog named Sir Isaac Newton for a couple of reasons. One, it’s pretentious (sorry Newton heads, but you need to hear this). Two, training a dog to understand commands is hard enough, but add in a few unnecessary syllables and your pup’s never going to learn to shake. Bella, Max, Buddy, these names have withstood the test of time because they’re simple and easy to learn. Finally, when naming a dog don’t overthink it. Consider some of your favorite things. Do you love cheese? Perfect, your dog can be Cheddar. Are you from New York? Dope, meet Hudson the dog. Lakers fan? Kobe it is.
Worst case scenario, pull a Keanu and call your dog by its species. Ultimately, the name doesn’t really matter. What’s truly important is you love and care for your new pup, even if you insist on referring to them as Sir Isaac Newton.
Sean Zucker is an editor at The Wildest whose work has also been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He recently adopted a Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and behavioral issues rival his own.