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Tips for improving your puppy's name recognition & increasing engagement

Updated: Jan 12

Tips for improving your puppy's name recognition and increasing engagement are shared in this article. We discuss how to use a consistent and positive tone when addressing your puppy by its name, ways to foster a love of its name and practice name recognition.

A puppy looking at you

  1. It is important to know that getting solid engagement should come before obedience. If your dog isn’t engaged with you, everything you say will go in one ear and out the other.

  2. When you say your puppy’s name- you should always get them to look at you. You want them to LOVE their name and respond excitedly when you say it. If your dog doesn’t know or love his name, practice saying it and following it up with a treat every time they look at you. Their name should be the first thing they learn.

  3. Some people say look at me or focus to get engagement with their puppies, I personally like using the dog’s name for this. It is more consistent and natural to get that eye contact.

  4. DON’T keep saying your puppies name without getting a follow through look in your direction. If you keep saying your dog’s name too much without following through, you can teach your dog to start ignoring their name instead of listening to it. If your puppy does not look, lure with hand signals or make kissing sounds, anything to get their eyes on you. If you have a pup that easily fixates but won’t redirect their engagement when you say their name I would work on standing behind the dog and wait for them to look away, then mark and reward.

  5. One mistake I see a lot of clients do is call their puppies name when it is time to come. For example, they just say “Ollie!” and expect their dog to come to them. You can say your dog’s name to create engagement, but make sure to follow through with “Come or Here”. Think about it when you call out for someone in the household a child or partner, when you scream their name normally you’ll get more of a “what” response but they are more hesitant to come straight to you unless you say “Partner/child, come here”.

  6. Say their name in a fun manner, not a nagging one! No one wants to be nagged and even a dog will start to ignore you if you keep nagging. This means you should also try to not say your dog’s name if they are in trouble or being corrected. We do not want a negative association to their name.

  7. Dogs follow hand signals more than they listen to commands so if you do not get a look at you when you say their name make sure to use a hand signal starting from their nose to your nose.

  8. I am not too treat dependent when it comes to basic obedience such as sit or down, but I will ALWAYS reward eye contact with whatever I got, affection, treats, toys or even freedom. This is because without engagement, your dog will lack follow through when giving basic commands.

  9. If your dog is not looking at you when you are giving your commands, they are less likely to listen to you. So, if you puppy is not looking at you say “ollie”, wait for eye contact and then say your command. The goal is to say the command once, so you must get their engagement first before giving them a command. DON’T say their name before every command. Just for engagement and recall purposes.

  10. I love working with puppy’s kibble more than treats. Feel free to get a treat pouch and put your puppy’s meal allowance in it. When you go for your walks, when you puppy gets distracted, is sniffing too much or just not listening, say your pups name and if they look at you reward them with a handful of kibbles. You can also reward for volunteered eye contact.

  11. A fun game you can play is grabbing food in both hands. Put it to the dog’s nose, then go up and split your hands. Say your dog’s name, they may look at your hands, wait till they look at YOU, then reward. This adds the impulse of food into the equation. Again, make sure to not keep saying your dog’s name with no follow-through. Say it once, wait a few seconds, if they do not look at you, lure with a hand signal from their nose to yours.

  12. Make sure engaging with you is fun!!!!

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