What's in a (dog) name? The highs, lows, and weirdos of all the dog names in Allegheny County

click to enlarge What's in a (dog) name? The highs, lows, and weirdos of all the dog names in Allegheny County
Photo: Hannah Lim
Full disclosure: none of the dogs pictured here live in Pittsburgh.

There are almost 72,000 licensed dogs in Allegheny County. They have roughly 13,765 names. Why do we know this? It’s a long story.

So let’s back up: a few months ago, a faint tickle of curiosity inspired us to make a right-to-know request to the city. While journalists typically reserve the right-to-know request for something appropriately hard-hitting and newsworthy, there’s no law stating that has to be the case. We figured nonsense — in this case — had enough journalistic merit to possess us to ask our pal John Weinstein to grant us a snoop at all the pups on his books.

From there, we descended into what was referred to in the office as “dog data madness.” It took many hours to crunch the 72,000 entries and extract the funnest of the facts that presented themselves to us.

Here’s what we learned:

1. About 75% of all registered dogs in Allegheny County have names that could conceivably be applied to humans (broadly construed). This is reflected in the overall most common dog name entries, which are all people names.

  1. Bella - 855
  2. Lucy - 664
  3. Max - 586
  4. Daisy - 566
  5. Buddy - 561
  6. Bailey - 557
  7. Charlie - 542
  8. Luna - 528
  9. Cooper - 501
  10. Molly - 453

We naturally focused our attention on the least common entries, hoping these might reveal something about our collective unconscious. Among the remaining 25% of names, many fall into one or more of the following categories:

Animals that are not dogs — the most popular name in this category is also the most popular name of the entire remaining 25% of non-human names: Bear. Followed in popularity by Moose, Raven, Goose, and Teddy Bear. Our Art Director Lucy Chen questions why so many people choose to name their dogs after birds.

Adjectives — We love a good descriptive name, from classics like Lucky, Smokey, and Sparky to rarities like Boxy, Low Key, and Itchie. To the pup named Black n Blue, we’re a little worried about you! Please blink twice if you’re okay.

Inanimate objectsShadow, Diesel, Gizmo, and Tank top this list, which also includes deep cuts like Taxi, Glissando, Clownshoes, and Binoculars.

Foods — The most common foods to name your dog after in Allegheny County are sweet, such as Honey, Oreo, Cookie, Hershey, and Snickers. Less common but still totally adorable: Brussel Sprout, Scallop, Paczki, Chiquita Banana, and the punnerific Chili Pupper.

Intoxicants — Pittsburgh’s reputation as a city built on the back of good old-fashioned Rust Belt alcoholism shines through in these namings, which include: Guinness, Kahlua, Tequila, Merlot, Mary Jane, Moonshine, Mojito, Mai Tai, Chardonnay, Brewski, and Smirnoff (you couldn’t pick something top-shelf?).

Fictional and mythological beings — Although you might think Snoopy and Scooby-Doo would dominate the list of dogs named after fictional characters, two of the most popular fictional characters selected for local dogs are actually cats: Nala and Simba. This category can also be sorted by the various fictional universes from which the names are pulled. Unsurprisingly, the most popular are Disney with 441 dogs, followed by Star Wars with 225 (top name: Leia), Harry Potter with 154 dogs (top name: Dudley), and Game of Thrones with 89 dogs (top name: Arya).

Famous people — The most popular celebs to name your dog after in Allegheny County include Kobe, Elvis, and Julius Caesar, but there are some pretty great niche picks including Vivian Leigh, Olivia Newton-John, Amelia Earhart, Bayard Rustin, and Clark Gable.

Our dog data also includes the ZIP codes where they live, which allows us to map the distribution of dogs throughout the county.

The distribution of dogs bears some resemblance to this map of 2021 median income, which makes sense given that pets can be expensive.

There are certain distribution patterns, however, that captured our attention.

What’s going on in Perry South when it comes to Disney-named dogs?

Do the people of our northern and eastern suburbs disproportionately yearn for oblivion?

Honorable Mentions

Tony and Carmela Soprano live in White Oak and are fawn-colored Pugs.

We found a few pairs of dogs whose names indicate they might be soulmates. If you are the human caretaker of any of these dogs and want us to document their first playdate, don’t hesitate to reach out! We’d like to know if we have a future in boutique pet match-making.

Our top picks for dog blind dates include:

Indica, a Siberian Husky mix living in South Park, and Sativa, and tan and white Boxer living in the Mount Oliver area.

Vendetta, a white and brindle-colored unspecified mix in Brackenridge and Vengeance, a brindle American Pitbull Terrier in the Reserve Township area.

June Carter Cash, a white and black American Bulldog in Oakland, and Johnny Cash, a black lab in Hampton.

We also landed on a handful of mutts who, based on their flamboyant names, might like to consider a career as a pet detective. They include: Amos Mosquito the Boston Terrier, Biscuit Cleary the Golden Retriever, Bunsen Honeydew the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and Hunter Thompson Magoo the Beagle mix.

The list, we found, is also severely lacking in parity. Why are there four Cheeches but only two Chongs? Three Girlfriends and only one Boyfriend?

Ultimately, we’re left with the following questions:

To the four people who named their dog Chapo — are you paying homage to the drug lord or the podcast?

Regarding the 232 dogs with astrological signs for names, whose sign is it, the dog’s or the human’s? The most common sign to name your dog is Leo, but that’s because it also doubles as a human name. Coming in second is Aries with eight dogs.

If the dog has a numeral after its name, does that mean there have been that many dogs with the exact same name that came before it?

Is this what people actually call their dogs? How many of the names are just because they were bored and wanted to put something weird on a government form?

The Final Rankings

And of course, what’s the point of collecting all this information if we can’t have strong and sometimes completely inexplicable feelings about them? We polled the office to see which of these names gained our general approval, and which ones we believe should be made illegal under the Weinstein imperium.

The City Paper Top 5:

  • The Cheddar Bandit — Pitbull Terrier
  • Blessing Entlewise — Beagle
  • Gringo Star — Chihuahua
  • Christ — Mix
  • I Dream of Jeannie — Labrador Retriever

The City Paper Bottom 5:

  • Ratchet the Goldendoodle and Rasta the German Shepherd (Both coming from predominantly white ZIP codes, in case you were also wondering!)
  • Bob Mueller — Lab Mix
  • Geisha — Mix
  • Sheldon Cooper — 1 Chihuahua and 1 Lab Mix (News reporter Jordana Rosenfeld contests this inclusion.)
  • Schnookums — French Bulldog

Disagree with our picks for the best names? Vote below and tell us what YOU think should be the best name: