How to teach your dog their name

Training your dog to react to their name is essential for their safety. Here's how to do it.

German Shepherd type dog sitting and looking just above camera

If you can get your dog’s attention as soon as you need it, by using their name, you can help to keep them safe. Remember, it takes time to build focus so patience is important. Being able to gain your dog’s attention at any time is an important life skill. It will give you both confidence, wherever you are and whatever adventures you might be having.

Steps to take

Preparation makes perfect

It’s important to start training in a quiet and calm place such as your living room – without any distractions, interruptions or temptations – and when both you and your dog are happy and relaxed. You’ll both be able to concentrate and be successful. You’ll also need rewards …

Reward your dog for checking in with you

Simply watch your dog as they go about their business, whether pottering about, snoozing or playing. Whenever they glance over at you, give them a treat straight away – every single time during your training session. Teaching your dog to focus on you is essential to make …

Get your dog's attention
Try practicing somewhere new

Start in your garden, if you have one, or other familiar outdoor space with your dog on their lead. Stay still, quiet and calm while your dog naturally looks around and sniffs about. It might be harder for your dog to give you attention because there are more distractions. …

Introduce your dog’s name

Now your dog understands that looking at you is always a good choice, you can start to ask for their attention, using their name. Say your dog’s name and when they look at you, roll or throw a treat out to the side for them to chase and eat. As soon as they finish the treat, …

Keep repeating

Throw the treats in different directions around you, some far, some near, to the left, to the right, behind you or in front of you. This keeps your dog guessing about where you’re going to throw the treats so they’ll need to look closely at you. It makes the game more fun, …

Practise in different places

Your dog might find it harder to practise in busier, more distracting places. In those areas you may need an extra tasty treat to reward their efforts. You might need to go right back to basics when practising in a completely new place, as your dog is likely to be distracted …

What to do if your dog ignores you

If your dog doesn’t respond to their name, don’t keep saying it repeatedly. This might make them confused or teach them to ignore their name altogether. Try being a little more animated and excited, but not so much that they become confused or worried. Try moving a little …

Always reward good behaviour

Be careful to always reward good behaviour and talk to your dog when they’re being good, so that you don’t fall into the habit of only giving your dog your attention when they’re doing something you’re not happy about. They should always enjoy having your attention.

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