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How to Teach a Dog its Name and to Respond to It Every Time

Believe it or not, teaching your dog its name is super helpful for training later on. This is because teaching your dog to respond well to their name will help get their attention during training whenever they start to get distracted.

Teaching your dog to respond to their name every time can also be helpful for calling them to you when in the house.

You simply cannot replace the usefulness and importance of teaching a dog its name. Because of this, I usually suggest new dog owners work on teaching dogs their names before doing anything else training-wise.

Teaching your dog their name is more than just useful. I believe this process is a rewarding and fun way for dog owners and their dogs to get started with training. It is also a great way to get acquainted with one another.

So, we know teaching dogs their name is important. How do you do it?

Luckily, teaching your dog its name is actually pretty easy to do. Like teaching your dog most things, I separate teaching dogs their names into three main sections.

But don’t worry! All of the steps are extremely easy to follow.

The first step is pairing your dog’s response to its name with a rewarding experience. To keep things simple, we will be using treats in this example.

I use treats because they are extremely rewarding, and you can repeat the same action many times in a row in a short amount of time. Once your dog learns their name, you do not give them a treat every time they respond to it.

The first step to teaching your dog its name is to sit down with your dog. If your dog is a wanderer, having them on a leash will keep them near you.

I recommend having treats stored in your pocket or in a treat pouch. This way, your dog will not be fixated on the treats themselves during this training. 

Once you’re all set up, call your dog’s name. Once they look up at you, give them their marker work and then their reward.

Keep in mind, you may need to wait a few seconds before your dog looks at you, especially if they are still new to learning their name.

Here is a helpful video:

You will essentially want your initial training to look just like the above video. Here is a quick breakdown of the video.

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Calling the Name: I called my dog’s name (Cleo)

Dog’s Response: Cleo looked up at my face when I called her name. This is the response you will want to see from your dog when you call their name as well.

Marker Word: Tells your dog it did the right thing. I use “Yes”

Reward: Most people use treats and praise. You can also use toys.

Next, all you need to do is practice this! Practice until your dog is looking up at you as soon as you call their name every time.

Play the “Name Game”

Once your dog has learned their name and that responding to it is rewarding, you can move on to the next step. I like to call phase two of teaching your dog their name “playing the name game.”

For this game, you will need your dog, some fun toys, and at least one other person to join you in the game. For this game, the more people you include, the better! This is a great activity for children to join as well.

To play the name game, you and everyone else sit on the floor with some distance between you. Give everyone playing with you at least one dog toy.

Next, call your dog’s name. When they come to you praise them and have a short play with the toy. Then, have another person call your dog’s name and have them do the same thing.

Take turns with everyone in the circle for a while. This is a fun bonding experience for everyone involved, and it also allows your dog to practice responding to their name.

You can play this game as much as you would like. It is so fun I am sure your whole family will be sitting down to play the name game at least a handful of times.

Once your dog knows their name, you can make it a bit more difficult

The next, and last, phase to teaching your dog its name is to make things a bit more difficult while practicing.

Call your dog’s name in a variety of environments and around some distractions. Calling your dog’s name when going on walks is great exercise.

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Remember to still reward your dog whenever they respond to their name. At the beginning of this stage, it is best to reserve food rewards for times when the dog responds to their name around a big distraction, such as when passing another dog on a walk.

You could also play “hide and seek” with your dog during this stage. In this game, you hide somewhere and call your dog’s name. Once they find you, reward them, and then start over again. This is yet another fun way to get your children involved in dog training as well!

Here is a video of me playing hide and seek with my dog.

As you can see here, I hid behind a wall and called my dog’s name. She came running to find me from the other room. As a reward, I mainly use praise here, since she finds the game pretty fun already.

Is there anything you should avoid when teaching your dog their name?

When still teaching your dog to respond positively to its name there are some things that are good to avoid. The first mistake is to call your dog to you just to scold them or do something they do not like, such as giving them a nail trim.

While this type of training is focused on not punishing a dog, it is normal to feel upset and want to scold them for naughty things like getting in the trash.

However, one of the worst things you could do is call your dog to you and then scold them for something, especially when they are still learning to respond to their name.

This is because the scolding will pair a negative experience with responding to their name, which could undo all of the hard work you have done. The same thing goes for any other experience your dog doesn’t enjoy.

The other mistake I see many people make is calling their dog’s name too often. If you are constantly calling your dog’s name without them responding to it, their name essentially becomes white noise to your dog.

This can make teaching your dog to respond to their name a bit more difficult, so it is best not to call your dog’s name over and over again.