When someone talks about living with Fido, Rover or Spot, you instinctively know that they are talking about their pet dog, even if it’s not their real name. John Woods, recognised author by the Dog Writers Association of America, tells us where these names came from and why we use them.

In the absence of a name, we often refer to a dog as either Fido, Rover or Spot.

If you spend time reading articles on dog health or behaviour, more often than not, these names will find their way in. But why? Is it simply a habit that has become globally understood or is there more to the story?

Well, we’ve been doing some digging and you may be surprised to learn the real reasons why we call dogs Fido, Rover and Spot.

Let’s start with Fido

The word 'Fido' comes from Latin origin. It means "to trust, believe or confide in", or "I am faithful". If we’re honest, this is what we want from our four-legged friends; we want them to be our trusty companion. Our best friend.

David Woods from My Pet’s Name suggests the name became internationally iconic when a floppy-eared dog came into Abraham Lincoln's life five years before he became President of the U.S.A. That dog was named Fido.

Lincoln had suffered bouts of depression, and it was reported that his pets would pull him out from despair. Unfortunately, the changes in routine to the newly-elected President’s life meant enormous changes for Fido as well. It was decided that Fido would be better suited to a more stable environment so the sad decision was made to re-home him.

However, in a tragic turn of events, Fido was killed just a year after Lincoln's assassination. Being the friendly pooch Fido was, when he approached an apparent wayward, homeless man by the side of the road, the man lashed out, stabbing an unsuspecting Fido.

Fido's journey attracted much interest during his short life. With significant public interest in his story, Fido became one of the most popular dog names of the time. However, he did have a predecessor in what is believed to be the "original" Fido whose story became well known in Italy - a pining Italian dog waiting in vain at the same bus stop every day for 14 years for his owner to return from work. Fido continued their normal routine, unaware that his owner had been been killed at work during WWII bombing attacks. His commitment lasted for more than a decade. What loyalty!

While both stories are heartbreaking, these two faithful friends helped to make the Fido name popular worldwide and a well-known reference to many a dog throughout the second half of the 20th century. Whilst Fido doesn’t make it to the top of the dog name list these days, it is a common and stereotypical name you'll likely hear in passing or referred to in literature.

Where did Rover come from then?

Just like the definition of the word, the name Rover is well-suited to a wandering dog. It was a common name given to hunting dogs and you can see why that would be the case. The name was also used in various literature works from as early as the 17th century.

In fact, it's possible that Rover's popularity as a dog’s name stemmed from Shakespear's Winter’s Tale and/or later from Vincent de Langres Lombard in his book Verses to my Dog, Rover. Additionally, a popular film named Rescued by Rover released in 1905 depicted a dog saving a baby from a kidnapping.

And let's face it, the idea that our dog can rescue us or someone else and simply be our loyal, loving best friend gives the name Rover a very strong case for use. However, like Fido, Rover isn’t particularly high on the current list of popular dog names. But it's likely it’s literary association could just be why we still reference it.

And finally, Spot!

This is a more recent edition to the frequently referenced classic dog name. And we can thank the popular children's book series Dick and Jane, by William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp, for “Spot’s” popularity.

Spot was the family pet dog to children Dick and Jane. Spot originally started out as a cat when the series was released in the 1930s but soon changed to a dog.

The fun and adventurous series of books were made to help children learn to read and were released up until the 1960s. It was a book series found in many U.S. homes for many decades, with its popularity also spreading to other countries. So it's no surprise that many children wanted to name their own pet dog Spot too!

When in vogue...

Despite Fido, Rover and Spot not being particularly popular names at present, many of us have referred to a dog at some point in time as one of these names, in the absence of their own. You may not have known the history, but you do now!

Time will tell if these three fitting names return to 'vogue status' when it comes to naming a new dog. After all, we see the endless recycle of past names for human babies. Fashion operates along the same lines too. But while these three names fit the bill for great dog names in terms of length and syllables, it may be that we only ever use them for their historical, literary and famous associations going forward. We'll see...

Have you ever used the name Fido, Rover or Spot before?

- John Woods

Founder of All Things Dogs, a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, graduate in animal welfare and behaviour and a recognised author by the Dog Writers Association of America.

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