Before you embark on the long, arduous journey of teaching your beloved puppy to “sit”, “lie down” or “shake paws”, you’ll have to make sure that it learns its own name first! To make things easier for your puppy, the name you choose should be short and simple. If your puppy has a long pedigree name, then shorten it to a daily “call name” that you can use on a day-to-day basis.
Does it respond?
Puppies respond to almost anything that is said, as long as it is said in a friendly tone! So it is easy for doting owners to assume that little Fido has caught on to its name. But how many times, and how loud do you have to call it before it acknowledges you? Try calling your puppy when it is not paying attention to you at all. If it doesn’t respond to you, chances are that it has not learnt to recognise its name.
So start by using the name you’ve chosen for your puppy and stick to it. Switching between nicknames and its name, or using phrases like “here, puppy!” will confuse your puppy and slow down the learning process.
You’d want your puppy to love its name, so always use its name in conjunction with something fun and exciting. In the early stages, never use its name when reprimanding it. When phrases like “Fido, NO!” or “Fido, GET OUT!” are used on your puppy before it embraces its name, it will only associate it with negative acts and feelings.
Reinforce & reward
Reinforce your puppy’s name several times a day. First put it on a leash so that you have some gentle control over its movements in case it gets distracted and run off.
Attract its attention with either a small toy or its favourite treat. When you get its attention, call out its name in a friendly tone and reward it when it responds by looking at you straight in the eye and pricking its ears up. Repeat this a few times during every session so that your puppy will know that the act of looking up at you when it hears the specific word that is its name, it will be rewarded.
It is important to reward your puppy for responding to you so that it knows that the specific sound is its name. Other than offering an array of different toys and treats to keep each session of name training fun and varied, lavish your puppy with verbal praise whenever it gets its name right. Say phrases like “Good boy/girl!” so that it understands the connection.
Name equals fun!
As you progress, your puppy will learn to associate the specific sound of its name to fun toys and yummy treats. With time, you can just call your puppy’s name and reward it with patting its head and making a fuss, without any treats involved. Once you’re sure that your puppy knows its name, and that you can get its attention easily, the real training can commence!