What’s in a name? When it comes to training a puppy: everything. Until the dog learns to associate itself with their name, training will not progress far. Bear, Molly, Daisy or Zephaniah Pickle Dip – no matter what a dog’s name is, they should respond every time they hear it.
To begin any kind of training, the dog’s attention must be fully on its owner, and this all starts with a name. As soon as the owner can regularly get the dog’s attention, other behaviour training can begin.
The ultimate goal is to have the puppy respond to their name even when they are distracted by something far more exciting. It may seem impossible initially, especially when confronted by slobbery, nippy, scatter-brained puppy energy. By applying a few simple principles to interactions with your dog, however, it’s fairly simple to get name recognition nailed from the start.
- Tone is everything
Tone of voice is the first thing to get right. Put simply, the dog’s name must always sound positive. When using it, keep the tone light, friendly and fun.
Never use the dog’s name in a raised voice or a negative tone. If a dog is always told off using its name (i.e. “Bella, bad dog!”) the negative feeling will pervade other parts of its life. If this negative name association becomes a habit, the dog will become less and less cooperative.
- Good things come to those who listen
Reinforcing a positive name association is an essential first step in dog training. The following strategy can also be used when other training methods aren’t having the desired effect and a reset is needed.
With the dog on the leash, ask them to sit in front of you (if that command is already in your repertoire). Then say your dog’s name clearly in a nice tone of voice. Every time the dog looks at you, acknowledge the action with verbal praise and pop a treat in its mouth.
It’s important not to overdo it though – you’ll just end up with a bored dog stuffed full of treats. Just practise three or four times and leave it, then repeat a few hours later. Short, regular stints are the most effective for training a young dog.
- Expect eye contact
The next step is to train your dog to look at you when it hears its name. Gaining attention despite distractions is vital for when you’re out in public spaces with your dog.
Start with your dog on a lead, but facing away from you or distracted. Then say the name in a sweet, pleasant voice. If they look back, praise verbally (or with a click if using clicker training).. Then reward the dog with a treat. If the dog won’t look, try using other sounds until it does. Mark any head turn towards you with praise and a treat.
- Watch that calorie count
Using treats can be super effective but owners need to be mindful of the dog’s calorie count. By conducting short bursts of treat-based training a few times a day, you may be inadvertently overfeeding your soon-to-be faithful companion. Raw meat treats are high in protein and low in calories. And freeze-drying raw meat means a no-blood, no-stink experience for treat-training.
Remember to always keep it light and keep it fun. Training should be a pleasurable experience for both dog and owner – as soon as you feel frustration creeping in, it’s time for a break.
Need some nutritious treats for your naming training? Check out the range here.