Name Recognition

Your dog’s name is going to be the first verbal cue that we discuss here. Your dog’s name is going to be used if you want your dog’s attention and they are not already focused on you. Or if you have a multi-dog household and are attempting to engage with one dog in particular. A dog’s name is generally used to ask the dog to look in our direction. Once name recognition is well established it is frequently used in combination with another cue. For example, “come” or “go to place.” We want to train our dog to respond to their name in the most challenging training situations, which means that we need to be mindful of the associations that are established and how we are training and maintaining those responses, even in less challenging situations.

A dog’s name might seem like the most straightforward cue to teach, but it’s also the one that is the most commonly misused. People generally say their dog’s name a lot, to the point that it becomes background noise. Just like with any other verbal cue, we want to make sure that when we use it, it is only said one time. If our dog doesn’t respond we want to do something that will help our dog offer the desired behavior, to look in our direction. We also want to be sure that a dog’s name does not become synonymous with a verbal reprimand. If a dog jumps on a guest or pees on the rug it’s common for owners to habitually say their dog’s name in a low, drawn out, disapproving voice. Doing this will create a negative association, and diminish your dog’s response to their name when you really need them to respond.

Rules to teaching your dog to respond enthusiastically and reliably to their name.  To teach a strong response to your dog’s name you will 1. pair their name with something that is of value to them: high value food, a high value toy, or a valued activity. 2. Use the cue first, and a prompt second. The two should be sequenced, but should come within approximately 1 second of each other. I usually use a kissy sound as a prompt. 3. Reinforcement for the desired behavior will also need to be delivered within 1 second. We will be using food since this is the resource that is the easiest to deliver, and use in repetition.

Wait until your dog disengages. This might take a minute or two, be patient. Your dog needs to look away away from you before practicing this exercise. If you’re having trouble losing your dog’s focus you can take a high value item, go to the fridge and find a super treat. A food item that will make your dog go bananas, like steak or bacon or cheese. Toss this food item out of your dog’s reach, like we did in week one of training. When your dog goes for the food item, hold the leash steady and say your dog’s name one time. When they turn back in your direction. Say “yes!” and reinforce with an equal value item in your hand. Pick up the food, and practice this in repetition.

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