Our fifth blog post in the series is written by Marta Young a pet trainer with Barking up the Right Tree, she explains how to train your dog to recognize his/her name. From using tasty treats and the right tone Marta gives you all the tips and tricks so your dog will recognize their name in no time!!
Why not have a look at our K9Connectable tasty treats to use for training your dog! https://www.k9connectables.com/store/chicken-carrot-dental-treats-x3
What’s in a name? Well, it depends on what you teach! It’s important for a dog to recognize his or her name and respond to it so that we know that the dog is paying attention so that we can ask it to do something (“George, come here!”). But how do we get the dog to know that those funny sounds are related to him and what should we teach our dog to DO when we say them?
I like to train eye contact for the name. That is, all I want the dog to do when I say his name is look at me. Then, I know my dog is listening, and he knows the next thing I’m going to say is meant for him. In a multi-dog household, this can be important when you want to call only one dog over to you, or ask them to do different things “George, stay. Buster, go to your bed!” Otherwise it’s just chaos with the dogs not knowing whether they are supposed to stay or go get into bed.
So to start off with, you’ll want a handful of tasty treats, maybe mixed in with your regular dog food. Sit in front of your pup, and every time he looks towards your face, say his name then give him a piece of food. This is best done when pup is a little hungry, and not right before playtime when he is likely to be rambunctious and jumping around instead of paying attention to you.
If you have a pup (or older dog) who avoids eye contact, you could start by showing him a bit of food, moving it towards your face, then saying his name as his eyes reach your face, and rewarding him with the bit of food. However, this may slow the learning process, so getting your dog to look towards you naturally, by coming down to his level, making attention noises (clicking your tongue or kissy sounds) or even just moving your head a little bit to draw his eye to yours is a better place to start.
When your dog starts looking at you a LOT (and this should happen after a very few short training sessions), you can start changing your body posture. Try it from standing, lying on the floor next to him, sitting on the sofa. Is he still looking for your face? Great! Are you remembering to say his name when he is looking at you and not before? Wonderful. Keep rewarding that!
If you have two or more dogs, do this with each separately and we’ll talk later about how to get them to ONLY respond to their own name.
Okay, now to test it out. Hold a treat in your hand out to the side so your dog can see it. Call his name. Does he look away from the treat and look at you? Wonderful. Start practicing in lots of different locations so your dog knows that wherever you are and whatever he is doing, he should look at you when he hears his name. Stand to one side of the dog, or behind him to make sure he knows to turn his head to look at you whenever you call his name. When you are outside or there are lots of distractions about, you might need to go back to the very beginning stages. What you don’t want to do is call your dog over and over and over again without getting a response. Usually, this just means that he doesn’t understand it yet in those circumstances, rather than he is willfully ignoring you. So it’s important that you make it easy whenever there is a new distraction. Sit on the ground in front of your dog and wait for him to look at you. Make your attention noises, and make sure you have some really good treats so he knows it’s always worth his while to respond. Don’t use his name to scold! You want him to only have positive associations with his name.
The Name Game
To further get your dog to understand his name, and to get your dogs to understand that each name is for a different dog (in multi-dog household or when you are out with your friends) try the Name Game. (NOT suitable for dogs who tend to get aggressive around food!)
Again, with a handful of treats, you can simply call each dog’s name in turn, then give one food treat and move on to the next dog. Then, you can have bowls or buckets in front of you, call the first dog, and drop a treat in his bucket (if the wrong dog responds, simply withhold treat). If the second dog tries to barge in, you just pick up the bucket and wait for a moment to try again. You may need to do some impulse control work with your dog(s) if they continually barge each other during these games.
Finally, get a pot of dog-friendly frozen yoghurt, or a small cup filled with peanut butter or tinned dog food. Say one dog’s name and present the cup to that dog. If any of the dogs gets pushy, tries to stick their nose in, or grab at the cup, simply remove it…take it out of their reach. You might need to separate the dogs initially with a baby gate if it keeps happening in the early stages to prevent barging. Let the named dog have a couple of licks, then take the cup away, call the next dog, and give him a couple of licks. Repeat until the cup is empty (and all the dogs have had some).
Now that your dog’s name means something to him, you can use it to get his attention and ask for what you want! Practice this with their bowls or K9Connectables filled with their favorite food; releasing each dog by name to go to their feeding station to get their dinner.
Marta Young is a pet dog trainer with Barking up the Right Tree