Teaching your dog his or her new name is an important step in making the animal a part of your family. Even if your dog is an adult, adjusting to a new home takes time.
Teaching a dog their name can be fast, and it is entirely up to the dog, explains Shelby Semel, a canine behavior expert, and trainer.
“It can take as little as a few days to as long as a few weeks,” Semel said.
Dog need positive reinforcement, like treats and praise, along with saying their name in a happy, excited tone of voice. This will make a dog eager to associate herself with the new name.
But don’t overdo name training. “You want to avoid repeating the dog’s name as they will begin to tune you out,” Semel says. “Another important thing to note, if you call the dog’s name in a negative tone, they may begin to ignore you.”
Semel recommends that in order to teach a dog their name, work with your pup when they are calm, but not tired. Try calling your dog’s name, and if she responds excitedly, praises her and reward her with a favorite toy or treat.
“As with any tricks or behavior training, teaching your dog to recognize [her] name will take time and practice,” Semel adds. “Be sure to engage with your dog without any distraction and reward them with treats or other positive reinforcements and soon enough, they will begin to associate themselves with the new name you’ve given them!”
Once the dog knows their name, you can work on attention and recall. To teach your new dog how to come when called, start with your hands at your waist, with treats hidden in both:
When she looks you in the eyes, say “Yes!” and give her a treat. To keep your dog’s interest, vary the kind of treat and how much you give each time.
Repeat until you have your dog’s undivided attention. Now, say the dog’s name instead of the “Yes!” cue, and reward her with a treat for eye contact. Repeat these steps between 10 and 20 times to build an association for your dog between her name, food, and attention.
When your dog has become a pro at the exercise, add a new challenge. Wait for your dog to be distracted, then say her name. When she looks at you, take a few quick steps backward, call “Come!” and if she follows you, reward her with a “jackpot” of small treats.
You can feed your dog the equivalent of an entire meal while repeating these exercises, building name recognition. “Imagine instead of gobbling up kibble in two minutes, she receives her lunch as 50 rewards for attention to [her] name,” Semel adds. “This is the quickest way to strengthen your pup’s ability to pay attention to you even with distractions!”
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