What? Isn't it obvious? Reservoir Dogs… it just makes too much sense not to be the title.
Well, maybe it doesn't make any sense at all, but maybe it doesn't need to. Tarantino is quoted saying that "it's more of a mood title than anything else. It's just the right title, don't ask me why," and, "It's just a perfect title for those guys, they are reservoir dogs, whatever the hell that means." Thanks for the explanation Quentin; glad you could help us out.
There are a ton of theories about this title. One theory is that "reservoir dog" is a slang word for a rat. The movie's all about a job gone awry thanks to the infiltrator, Mr. Orange. Rats are particularly large at reservoirs, which is why they're called reservoir dogs. Wait. Is that true at all or just completely unsubstantiated fan theory? We're thinking it's the latter.
One story does seem convincing. It involves the 1987 French film Au Revoir Les Enfants. In one version, Tarantino recommends it to a Video Archives customer who mishears him and says something along the lines of, "I don't want to see no reservoir dogs!" In another version, it was Quentin himself that had trouble pronouncing the title of the French film and resorted to calling it "the reservoir movie." He then combined this with his love of the movie Straw Dogs, hence Reservoir Dogs.
We admit that even we have trouble seeing the connection between Au Revoir Les Enfants (which is a movie about Jewish children during WWII) and Reservoir Dogs. Straw Dogs? We get that. Sam Peckinpah's movie was known for its extreme violence. Speculate all you want: The name sounds tough, like junkyard dogs, just like the gangsters in it.