Over our years supporting dog pros, we’ve noticed certain sticking or stress points common to many of our clients. Choosing the perfect business name ranks high among those.
We’ve been thinking a lot about business names lately. You may have noticed we’ve undergone our own name change from dogtec to dogbiz, and a bit of a visual branding update as well. It’s actually not our first name change and brand polish. Some of you may remember the original version of dogtec way back when we were dogTEC and sported multi-colored stripes. Back then the TEC in dogtec was an acronym that we quickly grew out of. (Extra points to those of you who remember what it stood for!) While we dropped the longer name and eventually de-capitalized the TEC, there was always the wish in the back of our minds that we’d had a crystal ball when we first started. If we had, we’d have called ourselves dogbiz from the start and saved ourselves the hassle of being mistaken for a software company or veterinarians!
But enough about our name—what about yours? Here are some tips on choosing a great dog business name:
A few words of caution and cheerleading
Unless you choose really, really badly (i.e., a name with sexual innuendo, for example), your business name won’t break your business. Really, it won’t. It can feel like the most important decision, but it’s far less important to your success than many other things—like doing your marketing, for example, or providing good customer service. (We’ve had 15 years of success with a name that really didn’t make sense!) So try not to let this decision lead to an ulcer; as a small business owner you have far bigger fish to fry.
Also, keep this thought front and center throughout your naming (or renaming) process: This isn’t for you. It’s for your clients. You don’t have to love your business name. It doesn’t have to be the most perfect, most clever name ever. You don’t have to nail this. And it’s really hard to. Thousands of people have been through this process already. It’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to come up with something truly unique. That’s okay. We just need it to work, and there are lots of ways to do that.
What makes a good dog business name?
Make it memorable. Your name should be something that’s easy to remember. That might be because it’s clever or funny, like the dog walking company in Edson, Alberta called Poop’d Out. It might be due to alliteration or rhyming, like Dynamite Dogs. The point is, with a little repetition your community should be able to call up your name.
Keep it short. The shorter your name, the easier it will be to recall. Avoid lengthy names that require acronyms (unless the acronym stands well on its own). Avoid names that attempt to explain all you do—they don’t have to. (Nike certainly doesn’t!) Just generally avoid anything overly long or complicated.
Think about tone and audience. What services are you offering, and how do you want to be perceived? Your name is part of your brand, after all. Wags ‘n’ Whiskers works well for a pet sitting company or animal supply shop, but less well for a dog training business specializing in serious behavior issues. Write down a handful of words you want to come to clients’ minds when they think of you. Caring? Professional? Warm? Expert? Be sure the tone of your name reflects the values you intend.
Avoid inside jokes or meanings. Again, your business name is for your clients and referral sources, not yourself. If you have to explain it, it’s probably not a good idea. That includes training methodology/ philosophy references!
Leave room to grow. Maybe you’re a dog walker or pet sitter now. Are you sure you won’t continue your education and eventually study to become a dog trainer? Or your training business is focused on puppies now, but will this remain your direction? Unless you’re sure about your niche, choose a name that’s broad and open enough to allow room for you and your business to evolve.
Types of business names
One thing that can help you find a name is thinking about the various categories of business names. Here are some for thought and inspiration:
Puns and other wordplays. We start here because this seems to be where most people look first. It’s a hard one, though, because most the good puns and wordplays are already taken (many times over!), and because they can backfire, too. It’s hard to be memorable when your name is a variation on a common theme. For example, if your community is already full of dog businesses spelling Positive as Pawsitive, adding yourself to that mix can leave you lost in the crowd. On the other hand, a unique pun well suited to your business can be a great find. For example, a canine warm-water and exercise therapy business in California calling itself The Rex Center (a play on Rec Center) is brilliant: relevant, clever, short, and memorable.
Local references. As we said, those sorts of Yes! moments in naming a dog business can be hard to come by. An easier strategy might be naming your business based on your location. This approach can help endear your community to you, particularly in areas that are fiercely local. (Just be sure when using this strategy that you intend to live where you do now for the long haul.) You can use your actual city or county or state name in your business name. Or you can make use of a local moniker, such as a neighborhood name or a regional nickname (such as PDX Pet Sitting—PDX being local shorthand for Portland, Surf City Dogs in Santa Cruz, CA, or Southern Mutt, a dog training company in Chattanooga, TN). You can also reference a local landmark, such as a mountain range or river or valley or famous site, like Golden Gate Dog Walking.
Your own name. Using your own name is a simple way to arrive at a business name, as in Peggy’s Pet Sitting or Dan’s Dogs. This tends to be tempting when there’s alliteration involved, but it’s not necessary. For example, Kathy Santo Dog Training. In fact, how you use this strategy matters a lot. If your business is more on the dog care side, like pet sitting, using just your first name and some alliteration (if the opportunity is there) can certainly work. But you have to be careful in your visual branding (logo, website, etc.) not to go too kitschy or look homemade, as you may undermine a sense of professionalism. For dog trainers, using your own name can lend a sense of authority and gravitas, so long as you avoid anything that sounds too cute (which probably means avoiding alliteration and thinking about using your full name).
Descriptive. We’ve said your business name does not have to describe what you do, and it doesn’t. People will encounter your name in context, giving it meaning. They’ll see it on your website, or print marketing material. They’ll see you wearing it on a shirt while walking or training a dog. That said, descriptive names are another category to consider. For example: Canine Behavior Solutions for a dog training company specializing in behavior. Note that what makes this name work isn’t just that it describes what the business does, though—it works because it describes the benefit the business provides—in this case, solutions to behavior problems.
Niche names. If you’ve nailed your niche, you might use it to your naming advantage. SF Puppy Prep, for example, is a San Francisco business specializing in puppy training. Or Canine Trail Adventures for a dog walking company that takes dogs out of the city for trail hikes. Or dogbiz, for a company that helps dog professionals succeed in their businesses.
Creative. We started by talking about how important it is that your name be memorable. A creative name might be whimsical or abstract, such as The Art of Dog. This is a San Francisco dog walking and daycare company that specializes in small dogs. There’s nothing in their name that would indicate any of that, but it’s very effective. It’s memorable, short, and suits the local culture perfectly.
Finding your name
If considering these various name categories still hasn’t led to your eureka moment, here are two strategies for landing on your business name:
Throw a party. Invite your most clever, creative friends, family, and co-workers (unless you haven’t yet told them of your new career plans!) to a naming party. Have a white board or large sheet of butcher paper handy. Pass out snacks and drinks, then call your party to attention. Describe for your assembled guests what you’re up to. Tell them about your services and your ideal clients. Tell them how you want to be perceived in your community. Share your brand value words. Give them instructions about anything you want to avoid (such as common industry words you don’t want to use or shying away from anything too cutesy). Then pick up your marker to capture all ideas and let the brainstorming begin!
Hold a contest. Use email or social media to challenge your social circle to come up with your business name. Again, share all your do’s and don’ts and guidelines as above. Give people a deadline and tell them what the person who comes up with your name (or submits an idea that sparks the final name) wins. Maybe a batch of your famous, coveted chocolate chip cookies, for example?
Don’t despair if your party or contest doesn’t land on the perfect solution right out of the gate. Sit down with your resulting list of ideas and strike through any options that are clear no’s. Circle any that are maybes or that suggest an interesting direction. Then walk away for a few days before coming back to your list with fresh eyes. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by something jumping out at you—either a suggestion you had initially overlooked, or one that sparks a great idea of your own.
Still struggling after all that? Consider a consult with one of our friendly business consultants; we’ve got a great track record of helping clients nail business names (even if it took us 15 years to get our own right!).