Teach your dog their name

If we can get our dogs attention as soon as we need it, we can help to keep them safe. The most important thing to remember is that it takes time to build focus, especially with dogs who are very interested in their environment, so it might be hard for them to focus on us right away. It’s well worth practising though, as being able to gain your dog’s attention no matter what else is happening will give you both confidence, whatever adventures you might be having!

Dog being stroked by their owner
  1. It’s important to start training in a quiet and calm place such as your living room – without any distraction, interruption or temptation - 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 ready for your dog and these should be something they really enjoy. You’ll need plenty to begin with, so small tasty treats might be a good idea.

  2. Simply watch your dog as they go about their business, whether pottering about, snoozing or playing, and whenever they glance over at you give them a treat straight away – every single time! If they always get a tasty treat every time they look over at you they’ll soon learn it’s a good idea to keep checking in with you regularly.

  3. If you’ve got a garden start there, but if you haven’t go just outside the house 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 might be more distractions, so be patient and make looking at you really worth their while by giving them an extra tasty treat as soon as they do.

  4. 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, repeat by saying their name again and rolling a treat out to the other side of you.

  5. Repeat! Throw the treats in different directions around you, some far, some near, to the left, to the right, behind you, in front of you… this keeps your dog guessing about where you’re going to throw the treats so the best thing they can do is to look at you to see what you will do! It’s more fun too!

  6. Your dog might find it harder to practice in busier, more distracting places, so you might need to choose locations carefully to make it easier or use 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 by the new sights, sounds and smells, but they should soon work through the stages again as long as you are calm, clear and consistent!

  7. If your dog doesn’t respond to their name, don’t keep saying it over and over again as they’ll be confused and might learn to ignore it altogether! Try being a little more animated and exciting, but not so much that they become confused or worried, and move a little further away from them to encourage them to see where you’re going and then reward them when they look at you!

    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!