March 14, 1998 in Washington Voices

Valley Loves Its Labs A Search Of County Dog License Records Shows Labrador Retrievers Are Valley’s Favorite Breed, And Bear Is The Favorite Canine Name

By The Spokesman-Review
 

She has an appetite for swimming pool water, carrots and cat food. She gnaws on water hoses and has a hankering for tennis balls. She likes cats and will befriend almost any repairman.

“Her bark is bigger than her bite,” says owner John Koenig.

Koenig’s 7-year-old Labrador retriever Bear is one popular pup - at least so far as she represents the pet preferences of Valley residents. A computer search of Spokane County dog licensing date reveals that, in the Valley, Labs are the No. 1 breed and Bear is the favorite dog name.

In fact, Labs and Lab mixes make up 12 percent of all Valley canines.

There are 131 dogs in the Valley called Bear.

Valley canine owners love their Labs, cocker spaniels, poodles, German shepherds and golden retrievers — in that order.

Among dogs of mixed breeds, those identified as mostly Lab again lead the list, followed in order by German shepherds, terriers, chows and generic mutts.

And the pooches are most likely to come running when owners shout for Bear, Max, Molly, Buddy or Lady.

Bear, the most popular Valley dog name, ranks second to Max countywide.

So why Bear? Perhaps the name involves a bit of braggadocio in reference to our self-image as outdoorsy types. Or maybe we like it because we live closer to those furry forest creatures than folks elsewhere.

“It’s probably because you have larger dogs there,” says Dr. Alan Beck, director of the Center for Human Animal Bonds at Purdue University and co-author of “Pets and People,” a book on relations between people and their pooches.

Indeed. Perhaps our love of big, sprawling landscapes, big chain stores and big trucks transcends to the animals romping around our own back yards.

Beck says owners tend to pick names based on the dog’s obvious characteristics, such as calling a small terrier Pee Wee.

“Bear might be common because it’s a big, furry animal. It’s our own private joke. It’s like calling our 6-foot-6 husband ‘Big Guy’,” Beck says. “(Pet names) are important to people, which is why sometimes they sound silly to the outside.”

Beck says most canine owners lean toward the stereotypical: They call poodles Fifi or German shepherds Lurch.

In the Spokane Valley, we have few stereotypical doggie names. We don’t have a single Rover. There’s a handful of Spots, and a couple of Fidos. Valley dog owners are much more likely to holler for Spud, Elvis or Rambo.

But a lot of our dogs appear to take their names from physical or cultural stereotypes.

Take the chihuahua. The little lapdogs from Mexico are most apt to be called Chico, Pedro or Chichi.

Siberian huskies are most likely to answer to Russian diminutives such as Tasha, Sasha and Niko.

The most common names for schnauzers and dachshunds are Fritz, Heidi and Gretchen.

Thanks at least in part to Disney, dalmatians answer to Pongo, Domino, Chip or Dottie.

Rough-and-tough breeds such as boxers and rottweilers are most commonly named Thor, Rocky and Tyson.

The little-dog set - the poodles, shih tzus and terriers - typically answer to names like Missy, Ginger and Molly.

Some owners find name inspiration elsewhere.

Jesse Regalado, a Washington State Trooper who lives off Dishman-Mica Road near Sprague and Argonne, stuck with a law-enforcement theme in naming his Doberman pinschers, Bailiff and Subpoena.

“I thought, it’s a Doberman and what picture comes to mind? Protective,” he says. “So I picked a name to go with it.”

If he ever gets a third dog, Regalado has already picked the name: Warrant.

Regalado is among the 15 percent of Valley pet owners who have more than one dog. Those that have duos often try to make them match.

There are two sets of schnauzers named Hansel and Gretel. Other pairs include Fred and Ginger, Bonnie and Clyde, Lady and Tramp, Nova and Scotia and Hans and Franz.

Millwood resident Tracy Anderson named his two Lab mixes Sami and Hager, after the former singer for the hard-rock band Van Halen.

“A lot of people who know me expected it,” says the plumbing shop warehouse manager. “My license plate says Van Halen.”

The two pups have a bit of musical background.

“I play music and sometimes they howl,” Anderson says. “That may be because the music is too loud, though.”

Valley dog owners show imagination when it comes to original names.

Some have gone for strange, one-of-a-kinders like Burger Butt, Choke Chain and a Raisin’ Cane.

Others stuck with a Northwest motif in choosing names like Ranger, Moose, Buckshot and, most succinctly put, Montana Truck.

Licensing records show no Valley dog named after such political or historical giants as Jefferson, Washington or Einstein. Instead, we go for pop giants like Oprah, Dirty Harry, Bogart and Ringo.

But no matter where you go, almost everyone loves the Lab.

The Lab isn’t just No. 1 in the Valley, it’s also the nation’s top dog. Labs moved ahead of cocker spaniels in popularity in 1991, according to the American Kennel Club, and have remained there ever since. Rottweilers rank No. 2 nationally, followed by German shepherds, golden retrievers, poodles and beagles.

In the Valley, there are some neighborhood variations in pooch preference. Cocker spaniels are slightly more numerous than Labs in Opportunity and the Kokomo and Ponderosa areas. German shepherds are No. 1 in Otis Orchards.

Poodles, dachshunds and chihuahuas don’t rank high overall in the Valley.

But people who do have them say their little pets are big on personality. Gail Butler of Veradale has a chihuahua-lasa apso mix named Elvis.

“We figured he lived up to his name,” Butler said. “He hooks up one corner of his mouth and grins at you.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color)

Graphic: Our favorite dogs


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