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For show dogs, complex monikers are the name of the game

February 17, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — His name says it all: Sumluv Robert Deniro Johnson was bred to be a star.

His drama-queen mother is Susan Lucci. His high-jumping dad: Magic Johnson. Deniro himself is a grand champion at the art and sport of being a Chinese shar-pei.

Why Deniro?

“He’s a ham,” owner Maria Johnson of New Jersey, said Monday at the Westminster Kennel Club.

With mash-up monikers and more initials than a doctor’s office diploma wall, it’s no wonder show dogs leave some spectators asking just what’s in a name.

But the fanciful-sounding handles aren’t just for show. They reflect dogs’ credentials, pedigrees, and characteristics, plus breeders’ systems for distinguishing one litter of puppies from another.

Sometimes, they’re just plain pun.

“Naming the puppies is one of the most enjoyable parts of having a litter,” says Dalmatian breeder Mary-Lynn Jensen of Florida. Her latest pups are getting names related to the HBO drama “Game of Thrones.” Previous litters were named after Champagne appellations, beers, Disney characters, novelist Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum mystery series and phrases that include “ain’t” or “mind.”

Show dogs and many other purebreds have formal “registered names” that go in breed records. Whether chosen by breeders or owners, registered names generally begin with the breeder’s kennel, such as Sumluv in Deniro’s case.

Names might include other kennels or dogs from the pup’s pedigree. Registries may add a number or an owner’s name if needed to differentiate one common dog name from another. Abbreviations before and after dogs’ names denote their accomplishments, such as “GCH” for grand champion in traditional breed judging, “MACH” for agility master champion or “OM” for obedience master.

Then the dogs have everyday “call names.” They’re generally chosen by owners and may or may not relate to registered names.

Names can function as a quick-reference code for recalling a dog’s lineage or litter. Many breeders name litters in alphabetical order — all “A″ names one year, “B″ the next, and so on.

Others like to get a little more creative.

Dawin Hearts on Fire, the standard poodle called Flame that won the non-sporting group Monday night, was named partly for mom Dawin Spitfire and partly for being born on Valentine’s Day 2011, handler Sarah Perchick said.

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Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.

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