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For Dogs, Max Is the New Spot, Even in New York City

In the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, Max ranks as the number one name for male dogs

Photo: Lynne Hand

Is your pooch’s name Max? If so, welcome to the kennel club. Dogs named Max have been movie stars, characters in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, set the record for the oldest dog alive (age 26) and even stood in as slang terms. In the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, Max ranks as the number one name for male dogs, according to Psychology Today. After Max come Buddy, Jake and Rocky for male dog name popularity. USA TODAY reports on the shift from the dog-specific “Spot” to more human-like monikers for mutts:

“Over 50 years ago, Spotty was common,” says dog owner Eileen Watson of Hallandale Beach, Fla., who has had eight dogs over the past 40 years. “Now, I don’t know of any dog that doesn’t have a human name.”

Dogs have long been considered man’s best friend, but for many Americans, they mean even more than that.

“It’s a reflection of the position that pets hold in a household,” says Mary Thurston, an anthropologist in Austin who has studied dog history for more than 25 years. “They are integral members of the family, just like a child.”

In the U.K., Max still rules the doghouse, though second and third place are taken by different human names than in the U.S. Jack Russell Terrier elaborates:

Although all-time favourite ‘Max’ still leads the pack as the name with 11 per cent of the vote, Sam, Meg, Ben, Holly, Charlie, Oscar, Barney and Millie closely follow.

When it comes to specific breeds, VetsStreet relays, Max varies in popularity but still holds strong. Chico, for example, is the most popular name for a chihuahua in the U.S., though Max places second. For labs, Buddy hits first place, with Max, again, in second.  Same goes for Shih Tzus, with Gizmo in first this time. For boxers and dachshunds, Max falls to third place, and in bulldogs Max slips even further, to fifth. But Max rules in first for German shepherds, Yorkshire terriers, golden retrievers. Pitbulls were the only breed to make a Max exception, with Blue, Zeus, Diesel, Rocky and King out placing Max.  

Some seemingly obvious names are out, however. Psychology Today highlights some quirks:

There were some surprises, in that the traditional names used to refer to dogs generically, such as Rover, Fido, Bowser, or Lassie appeared nowhere on my top 50 list. In addition some names associated with animals in the media, such as the fictional dogs Snoopy, Marley, or Beethoven don’t seem to have achieved enough popularity to make it to the ranks of most popular canine names. An interesting quirk, here, is that the name “Snoopy” does appear on the most popular name list for cats!

Snoopy, however, does make the top 50 (#33) in New York, WNYC points out. Yet New York City, where haute dog culture rules, is not immune to the Max mania. Mutts named Max rule New York City’s estimated 100,000 dogs, though Max is also suits Shih Tzus and Yorkies as well as a common mixed breed. 

Here’s an awesome map WYNC produced where you can explore these dynamics for yourself:

More from Smithsonian.com:

Tracking America’s First Dogs 
Dogs May Have Evolved from Wolves Who Liked Eating Trash the Most 

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