How To Teach Your Dog Their Name

With just getting a brand new puppy I thought it would be good to talk about how to teach our dog their name.  Many people will rescue a dog and want to change the dog’s name.  This is actually a good thing, because we do not know the association whether good or bad that his been made with the dogs current name.

All in all, a dogs name is a great cue for eye contact.  Teach the dog from the start when you say his name they are to look at you.   Some trainers believe that if you teach your dog their name, you can skip out teaching the “watch” command.  I like teaching both.  This helps the dogs learn the relevancy between their name and the command of watch.  It is very similar how some people teach their dog a basic come command and an emergency come.

Once your dog has learned their name, and to look at you when you say it, it becomes very useful in distracting situations. Using both classical and operant conditioning training to teach your dog their name will result in reliable, rapid name responses in a variety of environments. Many people when they go someplace new with their dog, just start by spurting off cues such as sit, down, or stay.  Start by saying your dog’s name, and then you will see if you even have their attention.  If they can’t respond to that, then don’t even bother trying your other commands; the distractions are just to high.  Many times when we say our dog’s name, they will look at us first then, automatically sit.

I train the dog’s name in two different ways, both with classical and operant conditioning.

Training with Classical Conditioning

  • First feed your dog some really great treats very quickly.  I usually do about 5-7 small pieces.  This way the dog will know that I have what they want.
  • Say your dog’s name, and immediately place a treat in their mouth.
  • As soon as they swallow the treat, say their name again and give them a treat.
  • Do this a couple times a day for only about 30 seconds each time.  Always end on a positive note.
  • Start practicing with distractions.
  • Make sure to practice in all tones voice, from happy to sad, to loud to a whisper.  Have other members of the family do so also.

Training with Operant Conditioning

  • For this you will need a clicker or a verbal marker such as “Yes”.  Make sure your dog is charged to the clicker or the verbal marker prior to starting.
  • Toss your dog a treat, and wait for them to look at you.
  • The second your dog looks at you click and toss them another treat.
  • Continue doing this until your dog makes eye contact with you four out of five times. (This could be a matter of hours or days depending upon your dog).
  • Once your dog is making solid contact it is now time to add the cue.
  • Start by tossing the dog a treat, as soon as they look at you say their name ONLY ONCE.
  • Click when they look at you and treat again.
  • Practice in all types of voices, and have family members do the same.
  • Remember to practice in short sessions, and always end on a positive note.

Things you need to remember in order NOT to undo your teachings.

  • Never use your dog’s name as a punishment.  If you are to so “no” say “no ma’am or no sir” NEVER “no, Bernard”.
  • Never use your dog’s name to call them to do something they don’t like. (Maybe going in the crate, or getting a bath)
  • NEVER constantly repeat your dogs name in environments where they are ignoring you.

If you would like help training your dog in name recognition call Kim Paciotti at 704-877-7821 or by email at Visit our website at and Carolina’s Premier Dog Training Club at

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