How to Teach a Dog its Name – Awesome Guide for Your New Dog

You’ve just picked out the perfect name for your pooch and can’t wait to start using it. There’s just one problem: the dog doesn’t know it yet.

So how do you teach your dog his or her name?

Try the name game:

5 Easy Steps to Teach a Dog Its Name

  1. Get some small treats and put your dog on a leash in a location without any distractions.
  2. Say your puppy’s name in a clear, happy, excited voice.
  3. As soon as they look at you, say “yes” and give them a treat.
  4. Wait until they look away and then repeat the process 3-5 times.
  5. Play this name game several times a day and soon they’ll know and love responding to their name!
dog on leash - training

Tips To Help Your Dog Learn Its Name

  • Make your dog’s name a positive thing – Positive reinforcement is key to training dogs. If it associates its name with good things it’ll learn to listen for it. If you do have to scold your dog don’t use its name. Try just a “No” instead of “Sparky NO”.
  • Treat selection – You can use any treat that your dog likes, but it’s a good idea to break them into smaller pieces as you’ll be using a lot. These Zuke’s mini treats are totally perfect for training.
  • Don’t overuse their name – Keep in mind, you shouldn’t use your dog’s name so casually that it becomes background noise. Always make sure you have a reason to say it (which is to get their attention). Once you have their attention you can give commands without their name.
  • Vary the setting – Once your dog starts to master their name try switching up the location. If they’re still doing great with that try removing the leash (if they’re still in a safe area) or adding some distractions.
  • Are the treats distracting? – Our pup is food obsessed. If your dog is just staring at you all the time because you have treats it can be helpful to get one a treat pouch that keeps your hands free and lets you carry treats around without being so obvious that you’re about to hand one out. Check out this pouch for carrying multiple items or this simpler pouch.
  • Use a consistent name – You might be able to get away with name variations eventually but you should train them with the same name every time. For example, if your dog’s name is “Maggie”, stick with that for now instead of saying ‘Mags’.
  • Keep Training Short – Dogs will get bored of training if you do it too long and this just makes things harder. It’s better to only do this a handful of times and stop before they get bored so the training stays interesting and fun.

An important note: Situations will arise where getting your dog’s attention is critical, say if they’re wandering into oncoming traffic or starting to eat a hazardous substance. In these moments, you need your dog to recognize their name immediately so this training is really important. And don’t let your dog off the leash before you know they’ll respond to their name and return.

Eventually you can phase out the treats and just give some positive reenforcement when they respond to their name. Smart dogs also love variety in their training like mixing up locations, types of training, and throwing in a surprise treat never hurts!

So in summary, remember to repeat your dog’s name and always provide positive reinforcement. Your pup will catch on in no time!

how to teach a dog its name - infographic

Changing a Dog’s Name

Did you adopt a dog and don’t like its name? It’s easy to change!

Dogs probably don’t have the same sense of identity you may have with your name. They just know it as a sound people make when they want its attention.

When my parents adopted a dog it came with the name “Freedom”. It sounded nice until we realized we’d be shouting “Freedom” into the backyard or at the dog park and everyone would think we were crazy!

To teach a dog a new name, simply follow the same steps for teaching a puppy its name. Use the name, reward them with a treat when they look at you, and then repeat the process after they have focused on something else. Try this 3-5 times in a row, several times a day and they’ll have the new name in no time!

How to Name a Dog

Have a great dog name picked out already? Awesome!
Still need a great dog name? Here are a few tips!

  • Choose a name that you’re happy calling across the neighborhood or dog park.
  • Pick a name that isn’t based on a temporary fad. Many dogs live 10+ years.
  • It’s best to choose a short 1 or 2 syllable name. Or at least have a short version that you’ll use most of the time. It’ll be easier for the dog to learn, and for you to call out when you need your pup’s immediate attention.

To find all the best dog names, try our easy-to-use puppy name finder.

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