Dog’s Eye View: To whom are you speaking?
April 28, 2016
One of the first things we teach new puppy or adult dog owners is what we call "The Name Game." It might be surprising to you many dogs have never been taught what it means when you say their name. We use so many different word sounds and clapping sounds in addition to what their official name is, it's a wonder they really know their name at all.
It's interesting that new puppy owners have the fun of picking out that really cool name that will forever brand their new family member. Then, they might use it inconsistently or perhaps don't actually teach it to the little guy.
In order to teach it, I have plenty of very high value treats in my treat pouch or in my hand. I stand close to the puppy and say his name. When he acknowledges he heard me say something and looks in my direction, I immediately deliver a treat right to his mouth. I'll do this about five times in a row. Then, I'll move to a different spot in the house and repeat the exercise.
This is a great family game. The puppy soon learns that when anyone says his name, if he responds by looking at them, he'll get a treat right away. Also, remember that the puppy's name doesn't mean anything more than, "look at me." It doesn't mean sit, lie down, come here, bad dog or stop that. It simply means, "I'm speaking to you."
This becomes a two-part exercise. First, Buddy learns to look at you when he hears his name. Separately, you're teaching his fundamental cues such as "sit," "lie down" and "come here." Now, you can put them together with a instruction such as, "Buddy, sit."
Can you imagine what it would feel like to have someone just call your name and then follow it up with nothing? Pretty soon, you'd just ignore their words. It's good to have something in mind when you're teaching your pup to respond to his name.
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Most people, myself included, usually have special pet names for their dog. My dog, Stuart, is also called, "Piglet" and "Piggy," among other names. I didn't start using these terms of endearment until he was older, after I'd taught him what his real name is. I don't yell his name as punishment. His official name is sacred ground. That's the one I count on.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC with more than 30 years of experience.
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