The novella has been interpreted both as a satire on the Bolshevism and as a criticism of eugenics. One commonly accepted interpretation is that Bulgakov was trying to show all the inconsistencies of the system in which Sharikov, a man with a dog's intelligence, could become an important part. Sharik is seen as "a reincarnation of the repellent proletarian", and the professor represents a "hyperbolic vision of the bourgeois dream", according to J. A. E. Curtis.
Names figure prominently in the story. Preobrazhensky's name is derived from the Russian word for "transfiguration". "Sharik" is a common name for dogs in Russia meaning "little ball".
The name and patronymic "Poligraf Poligrafovich" echoes a tradition of nonsense double names in Russian literature that goes back to Nikolai Gogol's heroes Akakii Akakievich in "The Overcoat" and Pifagor Pifagorovich in "The Carriage". The name is also a satire on new naming conventions in the early Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the name was chosen following the Russian tradition of "consulting the calendar," with Poligraf's name day being March 4. The name Poligraf has many possible meanings, including a printing process used for calendars.
The name of the donor of the human implants, an alcoholic and bum, is Chugunkin ("chugun" is cast iron) which can be seen as parody on the name of Stalin ("stal" is steel).