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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

The BEST Way to Teach Your Dog Their Name

Teaching your dog to respond to their name is a fundamental and potentially life-saving cue. However, it isn't as simple as just calling your dog's name; there's a certain process to follow to ensure a reliable Name cue. Whether you want your dog to pay attention during training sessions or prevent them from running into trouble, having a dependable name response is key.


Here's a step-by-step guide to ensuring your dog responds to their name, no matter the situation.

CAPTURING ATTENTION:
  1. Establishing Eye Contact: Start by standing in front of your dog and patiently waiting for them to make direct eye contact with you. The moment their eyes meet yours, use a clicker or say "yes" to mark the behavior, then promptly reward them with a treat. Repeat this for 3 minutes twice a day until your dog is reliably offering eye contact.

  2. Practice in Various Locations: To generalize this behavior, practice in different locations both indoors and outdoors. This helps your dog understand that making eye contact with you is desirable and rewarding.

Capturing attention in this way lays the foundation for various situations, including redirecting their focus from distractions or initiating cues during training.


PAIRING THE CUE WITH ATTENTION (YOUR DOGS NAME)
  1. Name Association: If your dog is already looking at you, say their name, if they maintain eye contact while you say their name click and treat. This creates an association with their name with the action of looking at you.

  2. Encouraging Eye Contact: If your dog isn't looking at you, wait for them to begin turning their head towards you or raising it to make eye contact. As they do so, cue their name. When their eyes meet yours, click and reward.

  3. Maintaining Attention: Should your dog look away after you say their name, wait for them to reestablish eye contact, then click and treat.

ADDING DURATION TO ATTENTION:
  1. Extending Eye Contact: Cue your dog's name to get their attention and count to one second silently. If they maintain eye contact for the entire second, click and reward. If they look away before the second is up, restart counting from where you left off once they look back.

  2. Gradual Duration Increase: Increase the duration of required eye contact by one-second increments until your dog can sustain it for five seconds. This step enhances their focus.

ADDING DISTANCE TO ATTENTION:
  1. Introducing Distance: While your dog is tethered or securely positioned, stand a few feet away from them. Use their name cue and wait for eye contact. When they respond, click and toss them a treat.

  2. Gradual Distance Increase: Gradually move further away, taking one or two steps back at a time, and repeat the exercise. Keep increasing the distance as long as your dog reliably responds to their name. This is to teach your dog to respond to their name when at a distance from you.

  3. Ensuring Reliability: If your dog stops responding, reduce the distance and practice until they regain reliability.

ADDING DISTRACTIONS TO ATTENTION:
  1. Introduction of Distractions: Begin with mild distractions like gentle patting of the knees or quiet kissy noises. Call your dog's name and click and treat when they make direct eye contact.

  2. Gradual Distraction Increase: Slowly raise the distraction level, incorporating louder noises, toys, or food distractions. Only advance when your dog consistently responds to their name in the current level of distraction.

  3. Practice and Generalize: Regularly repeat this exercise in various environments with different distractions to ensure your dog's name response is reliable under any circumstances.

Remember, the key is to start with manageable distractions and progressively raise the difficulty level as your dog becomes more adept at maintaining their attention. With patience and practice, your dog will learn to respond to their name in any situation, enhancing communication and safety.

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