The Name Game – Teaching your dog to respond to you!

Why would I have to teach my dog her name? Doesn’t she know it already?  Well, it depends. Does she orient to you when you call her name? If not, I think a refresher course might be in order, especially since the name is an important foundation behavior when teaching your dog to “Come When Called”.  

Let’s get started.

  • Start by tossing a treat on the floor away from you in order to distract your dog.  Once he /she gobbles it up, say his/her name. When the dog turns and orients to you, click and then deliver a treat.
  • If the dog does not look at you, DO NOT repeat his/her name. If you overuse any word (name, sit, come) the dog learns to ignore the cue.  First try making a kissing noise. If that does not work, place a treat right at the dog’s nose and lure his/her attention to you. Once you get the behavior, click and treat.  

Jump the prompt.

When you use a kissing noise or lure the dog’s attention to you, you are prompting/making the behavior happen. After the dog starts to understand what it is you are asking for, we can start to fade these prompts out. For example, after a few tries, the dog may not need the kissing noise and he will “jump the prompt” by looking at you after hearing his/her name. Click and treat this behavior!  

Taking it to the Next Level.

  • Once your dog is turning to look at you on a dime, start to create some distance between yourselves. You can do this by tossing the treat further away from you. When the dog scurries to get the treat, move a few feet away.  Call the dog’s name and click and treat for orientation.  
  • Another way to make it a bit harder for your dog is to add distraction. Wait until your dog is sniffing something or looking elsewhere and call their name. When they look in your direction, click and treat.  
  • Since we are making things harder by adding distance and distraction, remember to use your prompting skills, such as kissing noises and luring with a treat in order to make the behavior happen.