Teaching a Dog Its Name

Teaching a Dog Its Name

Picking out a name for your dog is an exciting process for any new pet owner. Whether his name is Rover or Rex, your dog’s name will become a part of who he is. 

Dogs are brilliant creatures, and they will learn their names quickly with a little help. Dogs need to be continually reminded of their names, especially when they are young. They also need to be conditioned to respond to their own name over time. Using treats and other rewards is an excellent way to start the training process.

Shakespeare might have said that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but we know that a name changes how we feel about our pet and their personality. Read on to learn some tips and tricks to teach your dog his name.

Choosing a Name for Your Dog

Identifying the right name for your pet is vital. Dogs and other animals will soon learn to respond to their name, but the right name will avoid confusion.

Preferably, when choosing a name, choose one that is dissimilar to the names of the people or other pets in the household. Calling your pet dog “Charlie” while your husband’s name is Charles is a recipe for disaster.

It is also important to choose names that do not rhyme. Rover and your daughter, Clover,  will not appreciate the mix-ups, especially since dogs pay more attention to the sound rather than specifically what is being said.

Dogs are fully capable of understanding their names and responding, but to find out more about the psychological process of this knowledge, you can read “Do Dogs Know Their Names?

Importance of Names

Your dog should like his name, especially when you train him positively. Your dog’s name will serve as a way of gaining his attention when needed, bringing him back to you when he runs off, and stopping him from continuing with poor behavior (source).

When training your dog, always use a happy, positive tone when saying his name. Your dog should not associate his name with anger or stress. 

Once your dog has become used to his name, you can use a more severe tone if your dog misbehaves. Even so, it would be best if you never scream or shout at your dog, as that is likely to cause further stress and continued poor behavior.

However, the preferable method when stopping a dog from misbehaving is to avoid using his name altogether. It is preferable to distract him from the negative behavior rather than scream his name with a “Stop!” or “No!” attached.

Too many dogs associate their names with negative connotations because they are always being told to stop doing something when their names are called (source).

Changing a Dog’s Name

When you adopt an older animal, your pet will already have a name. For whatever reason, you may not like the name and would like to change it. That’s ok! 

That is quite possible using the same process for teaching a puppy its name. Names are taught through association, and dogs do not have any sentimental value associated with their names.

Training Your Dog to Respond When Called by Name

Until an owner gets his or her first pet, the process of learning a name is not one most people dwell on. As humans, we did not have to learn our names. It more likely just happens over time. In the case of dogs and other pets, however, it isn’t that simple.

As with all training attempts, your dog should be in a quiet place with minimal distraction. Training should also happen consistently but should not be overdone. The following are some of the strategies that can be used.

Strategy One

When your dog is in a quiet environment, he can focus entirely on you. The initial training should always start like this, but you can add distractions over time to help your dog maintain focus.

Start by calling your dog’s name. When he looks up or responds by coming to you, indicate the response with a clicker or praise or even a small treat (source).

You can also use a treat to gain your dog’s attention. Once he eats it and turns toward you, praise him. Your dog will then start giving you attention without being prompted, and you should reward this behavior as well.

When calling your dog’s name, use a friendly tone, and be sure to enunciate the name well so that he understands that the name applies only to him.

Any time your dog responds to his name, continue the rewarding process with a mix of praise, treats, and play. Practice generally makes perfect, and you should call your dog’s name as often as possible. 

Other distractions can be added as your dog becomes confident in the knowledge of his name. Try calling him when there are other noises in the room, such as a television. Continue practicing when there are other people in the room as well.

Encourage other members of the household to also call the dog by his name, and repeat the rewarding process when possible.

Strategy Two

This strategy works better for easily distractible dogs who require more intensive, focused training. Regardless, remember that when using your dog’s name, always use a positive, happy tone of voice.

When training your dog, start by calling his name. Whether or not he looks at you, give him a small treat. This step should be repeated about 10 times. By taking this step, you are inviting your dog to pay attention to you.

Next, call your dog’s name and only give him the treat if he turns to look at you. By now, your dog should be a lot more amenable to the sound of his name, and your success rate should be higher. 

Keep the training session short but, next time, add a few more distractions. The main aim of the exercise is to have your dog look at you when you call.

To better encourage your dog to come to you when you use his name, call in a friend or family member for help. Both of you should be armed with treats, and each should take turns calling the dog’s name and rewarding him with a treat when he comes to you.

The game can be expanded by moving further away and doing this same practice in public, once you are sure that your dog can handle outside distractions safely. 

Final Thoughts

Dogs are an important part of the household, and, just like everyone else, their names have connotations. 

Choose a good name for your dog, teach it to him positively, and always call his names with a cheerful tone. This will continually ensure that you and your dog will spend the rest of your lives happily together.