Photo by Carole Fuchs

By Ana Borruto

Choosing a name for a pooch can be “ruff” for pet owners, but a Press review has found that the two most popular dog names on Long Island are Bella and Max.

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The Press requested lists of licensed dog names from all 13 towns across LI and tallied the results from Hempstead, Brookhaven and Southampton—the only three municipalities that had such data to provide. Although Bella and Max were top dogs for the region, top 10 lists tallied from data provided by each town showed how local preferences vary.

“Max is a classic name. It’s always been popular, and I think it probably always will be,” said Venessa Rotondi, an aid at Islip Animal Shelter, who wasn’t surprised to hear that Max and Bella were the most popular dog names. “It’s easy for the dog to remember too, which is helpful when you’re trying to train them because it’s a short, one-syllable word.”

One hundred and four female dogs in Brookhaven, 53 in Hempstead, and 25 in Southampton are all named Bella—182 in all, data showed. As for male dogs, 136 in the three towns are named Max: 74 in Brookhaven, 40 in Southampton, and 22 in Hempstead.

New York City also ranked Bella and Max as the top two dog names in the five boroughs for 2015, according to the city health department. Out of the 84,054 dogs licensed in NYC, more than 1,127 were named Bella and Max followed closely behind with 1,073. Bella and Max were the top dog names nationwide in 2015, too, according to a survey conducted by rover.com, which reported 49 percent of dogs last year had human names.

The name Bella—Spanish for beautiful—has reigned for seven years in the pooch community, possibly inspired by the protagonist in Stephanie Meyer’s popular Twilight book series, which was released in 2008. Given the myriad uses of the name Max in pop culture, it’s unclear whether books and movies are also fueling its popularity. Max is a shortened version of the European names Maximilian and Maxwell.

Elizabeth Weiburg, 40, a probation officer from Lindenhurst, said her husband chose the name Max for their 8-year-old miniature pinscher because it’s tough-sounding.

“He looks like a little tough guy,” Weiburg said. “I think it’s a masculine name, but it’s also cute and sweet.”

Alyssa Taylor, 20, a student from Bay Shore, was very young when 13-year-old Bella, a boxer mix, was welcomed into her family. She does not remember the reasoning behind naming her playful companion, but she now sees a larger meaning behind it.

“It means all dogs are beautiful,” Taylor said.

New York State law requires dogs to be licensed so that dogs can be reunited with their owners if they are lost, and it provides proof the dog has had its rabies vaccination. Dog name data was previously maintained by the state, but five years ago, the state put dog licensing duties in the hands of local towns. Since not all 13 Long Island towns keep lists of licensed dog names, the Press could only compile top 10 lists for the three that do.

The top 10 male dog names in the Town of Hempstead include Rocky at number one, followed by Buddy, Bailey, Max, Riley, Charlie, Casey, Lucky, Teddy and Toby. The top 10 female dog names in Hempstead are Bella, then Molly, Daisy, Lucy, Coco, Ruby, Mia, Maggie, Sandy and Sophie.

For the Town of Brookhaven, Bella is the most popular female dog name. Next is Molly and Daisy for second and third place, and lastly, Maggie, Lucy, Sadie, Sophie, Bailey, Lola and Chloe. Max is the top male dog name, with Buddy, Rocky, Jake, Bear, Teddy, Cody, Toby, Jack, and Bailey following behind.

The Town of Southampton has a similar list, with Max being the favored male name for a furry, whiskered companion. Buddy, Rocky, Charlie, Jack, Bear, Toby, Duke, Oreo and Cooper made the list of popular names for male dogs. As for female dogs, Bella, once again, is in the top spot, followed by Lucy, Coco, Lily, Molly, Daisy, Bailey, Lady, Zoe and Sadie.

What does the future hold for the two top dog names on LI, NYC and throughout the United States? Bella and Max may well continue their reign.

“I think it will stay pretty popular, especially Max,” said Rotondi, the animal shelter staffer. “Bella seems more like a trend right now.”

-With additional reporting by Luis Centeno and Olivia Booth

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