When you communicate with other people, you may not always acknowledge them by name if the conversation is just between the two of you. However, we do like to be addressed by our name when there’s more people involved. For one thing, it tells us someone is speaking directly to us. It’s equally important for your dog to hear his name, especially when training him.
From a dog’s perspective, our human world is a noisy place. They can hear many sounds that we can’t. Their exceptional hearing and observational skills can distract them at times when we want or need them to pay attention to us. Canines with a strong prey drive can become so focused on another animal they ignore everything else, which is why some dogs should never be let off leash, and why a recall command is so important.
Speaking your dog’s name first gets his attention and lets him know you’re getting ready to give him a command you expect him to follow. Some dogs can get so tuned in on prey they don’t hear their owner calling them as they race out into a busy street or disappear into the woods. Knowing how your dog responds to his name tells you how well he’ll respond if there’s an emergency situation that requires him to pay attention to you. It’s for your peace of mind and his safety.
Regardless of what your dog is doing, every time he hears his name he should look to see what you want. The trick is to find a positive incentive that’s enjoyable for your dog and makes it worthwhile for him to pay attention when he hears his name. He learns to love hearing his name when he associates pleasant interactions from you. It might be a favorite CANIDAE treat, a much loved toy, or some ear scratching. When you use his name before giving him a command, he knows you are talking directly to him and getting ready to give him instructions.
When your dog knows his name and responds each time he hears it, you’re earning trust and building a solid foundation in your relationship with him. And trust creates a willingness on the part of your dog to want to learn. Training your dog to recognize his name and look at you every time he hears it, makes it easier to teach him commands when you can get and hold his attention.
Because of the trust that develops between you and your dog, never call his name to punish or scold him. You risk causing him to hesitate or refuse to come if he thinks returning to you might not be a pleasant experience. Teach him to associate his name with the expectation that only good things happens when he pays attention to you. You want him to learn that his name is the sweetest sound he’s ever heard. If you need to reprimand your dog for any reason, don’t use his name.
Getting your dog to stop and look at you can be a challenge. But when you reward him with his very favorite treat each time he acknowledges his name and turns his attention to you, it gives you the ability to control his actions when it’s necessary. He will be focused on you and ready to receive any instructions you need to give him.
It’s not difficult to teach your dog to whip his head around and look at you each time he’s called. Keep a good supply of treats on hand and reward him every time he looks at you after you’ve called his name. Also give him some attention or play with him a bit.
Practice it on a daily basis, because repetition and consistency create positive behaviors. Give a treat only after he responds by looking at you. You will be creating a habit that could save his life one day. It’s a behavior that will stick with him for his entire life. If he doesn’t respond immediately when you call his name, don’t repeat it. Wait a few minutes and then call him again.
Dogs are intelligent and capable of learning not only their name, but the names of other pets in the home and yours. Canines pay attention to their environment and may not always want to turn their attention away from what they see. However, dogs that recognize and respond to their name and look to you for what’s next are easier to control. It’s also safer when you can get and hold their attention – and have a dog that comes when called.
Read more articles by Linda Cole