Teach Your Dog Their Name – Even Change a New Dog’s Name!


Some time ago we put out a video on
strategies for using your dog’s name effectively. A lot of you asked about how
to teach a dog their name in the first place or how to change a new dog’s name.
Well we’ve got the rundown on that for you, coming up. Ian here with Simpawtico Dog Training
and before we get into name recognition strategies please make sure you’re
subscribed so you never miss any of our videos. Also follow us on all the major
social networks and don’t forget to check that YouTube description for notes,
links, and resources about the stuff we talked about. Now, dogs don’t have the
same attachment to their names like we do. To us our name is a big part of who
we are. It’s deeply tied into our identity. However dogs don’t have that
same kind of attachment to it. Dogs don’t process language like we do. They really
just memorize the meanings of sounds they hear often. Then they learn to
respond in a particular way to particular sounds that we make. So to a
dog their name is simply a sound that means, “Hey check this out!” So we use their
name to call them into attention and to proceed requests and to help them
differentiate requests made to multiple dogs. Due to this it’s not only easy to
teach a young dog their name it’s pretty easy to change a newly adopted dog’s
name to whatever you want. And if you’re newly adopted dog came from an abusive
situation changing the name will help you start with a clean slate since they
may have negative associations with hearing their old name. To dogs the words
that we teach them become antecedents that predict something else. So for
example when we say “Sit,” that should predict the action of putting their
bottom on the ground. This is a classically conditioned relationship
similarly if we say something like “Do you want to go for a walk?” or mention
riding in the car your dog gets all psyched because they have a good
expectation about what those words predict. So we need to do the same thing
with their name and we do that with a classical conditioning exercise. Grab a
handful of high-value treats or do this at mealtime and hand feed your dog.
During the exercise say your dog’s name and give them a piece of food. Wait a
couple of seconds and do it again. “Wednesday.” “Wednesday.” It must be done in
this order: name, then food almost immediately, then pause. With each
successive trial the sound of their name begins to predict something good. This is
cultivating a conditioned emotional response a concept we’ve talked about
before on the Simpawtico channel. That short pause in between trials helps
preserve the integrity of each trial and makes sure the association we inttend is
the one being made; the gap draws attention to the pairing. If you run them
together too closely by going name-food name-food-name-food then the name
becomes a short break to fill the absence of the food and they’ll actually
start tuning it out, the exact opposite of what you want! Just take your time
with it and do it right. This process actually
happens pretty quickly; within a couple of sessions you ought to have the
foundation well enough established to move forward. Think of this like a sonar
ping to test the water. Hang out with your dog in a relatively
distraction-free environment. Allow them to look around and explore naturally.
Don’t try to actively distract them with something like having someone get their
attention or by throwing a ball or something. Just hang out and let things
happen naturally. You can do this inside or outside if there aren’t too many
distractions. Then call your dog’s name in an upbeat, peppy tone. You’re looking
for the head snap; this is something that you reinforce just like any other
behavior. Back up a few steps and make this a dynamic reward event. “Wednesday! YES Good girl! Sweet girl! Good job!” “Wednesday. Yes! Good girl, good girl!” “Wendesday. YES! What a good girl, that’s awesome!” Incidentally not only is this teaching
them the value of hearing their name but it’s building the spatial gravity
necessary to make come and off-leash following more successful.
It’s a powerful bond-building game. Now we also condition a second prompt to get
their attention and this one is a physical one. Now physical prompts are
typically more relevant to dogs than verbal ones but we do want to place
priority on the verbal. For this reason the physical cue is just going to be
something we keep in our back pocket to use when the verbal cue isn’t working.
This is the butt tap. After doing the first two exercises follow this protocol:
tap, name, back up and reward. As before we prefer to make this active and
dynamic with lots of movement. You could do this passively by handing them the
food but movement is always way more engaging and helps turn outwardly
directed energy back towards you. Wednesday. YES! Good girl, good girl great job.” “Wednesday. YES! Great job, good girl, sweetheart.” “Wednesday. YES! Good girl that’s fantastic! What a good girl!” Now you have two ways to redirect attention back to you when they’re
focused on things in the environment. Incidentally if you have a reactive dog
rehearsing the butt tap in neutral environments will make it more likely to
work when you need it out in the world. As your dog falls in love with hearing
their name you have to protect the work you’ve done. We talked at length about
this in our name strategies video but probably the biggest takeaway is to
never use your dog’s name as a reprimand or as part of a reprimand. People
tend to do this a lot and it’s a huge contributing factor as to why dogs don’t
listen. As with most annoying behaviors it’s usually people’s fault. Only use
your dog’s name to proceed reasonable requests or to otherwise engage with
them in some positive fashion. We’ll link to our name strategies video below so
you can go a little deeper with this info if you’d like.
All right everyone I hope this has given you a quick and easy roadmap to follow
as you teach your new dog their new name. Let us know how this has worked for you
and what some of your stumbling blocks have been, and leave your questions in
those comments. Don’t forget to thumbs up this video if you found it useful and as
always keep learning, keep practicing and we’ll see you again soon.
Thanks for watching!

30 thoughts on “Teach Your Dog Their Name – Even Change a New Dog’s Name!

  1. I really like the tip about the butt tap! My GSD goes deaf when he sees another dog walking by so I'll add this on top of all the counter conditioning I'm doing to get him back when he's right on his threshold.

  2. Although I know how useful operant conditioning is, I would only use it to teach their name in an extreme case. I'm not a fan of behaviorism. I would argue dogs do recognise their name as their own name. Dogs do have mental representations of things. "Bring [insert name of their favourite toy]". Even if it's a simple association, their brains are recovering the "idea" of the toy, the same way if I ask you to imagine an elephant. You could say dogs aren't self-aware, so they would not be able to associate their names to the idea of themselves, and though I would agree, I would argue self-awareness is a continuum, not black or white. Sorry about the rant. Psychology student, studying dog cognition and interspecific attachment.

  3. I need help my pup is Belgian mal and he has good potty training and crys rarely but he is not house trained and I am struggling parents wont take to professional I am 12 and neeed help.

  4. Do you have any tips on teaching a dog how to fetch? My 2 year old labradoodle does not want to give the ball back. She knows the command "drop it" and she really enjoys playing tug, but we can't make fetch happen. Do you have any tips? Or should we go back to our dog trainer/behaviour specialist for that?

  5. Great video. I practice this in my training so clients know it all starts with the name. I don't understand why you don't put outt more content. Your voice has a very pleasant cadence to it. I HATE YELLING, CURSING!! There are some trainers that do those things and I find it very unprofessional and annoying.
    I don't know where you are located, but, did u ever think of going on the road for a little while and doing workshops?? Come to NYC, LA and a few places in between.

  6. How do you teach Item association? Not necessarily "commands" but that thing is "ball", "potty", and things like that?

  7. I had a dog that wouldn't come to her name then I figured out she was def!!! so her name changed to a hand signal and that dog listened better then the dogs who could hear. She was the best dog I ever had and…..She was a pitbull woot!

  8. How to get a dog to enter your car on their own? My 5 month old Great Dane pup is eager to go for a ride and will now willingly jump in my car to take a ride when asked, but doesn’t want to get back into the car when it’s time to leave our destination. She’s getting too big to carry and treats don’t work. Thx

  9. Where is your facility? Seriously, find a way to do hands on workshops. I find that to be a good idea. Just to listen to someone speak in person, is not enough people are struggling with many different issues

  10. I'm in Brooklyn, NYC. Never heard of Big Flats. Obviously, you're upstate. Do u know how far u are from me?
    I'm a trainer in excellent standing, have all 5star reviews, but, always looking to up my game. COME TO LONG ISLAND OR BROOKLYN!!

  11. Thank you for making great videos! Can you please provide some tips on resource guarding? My dog is very good at leave it and drop it when we’re in “training mode”, but when he actually grabbed something he’s not supposed to (towels, paper etc) he would run around with it and growl when we try to take it away. He does the same thing with new food/toys. He would only drop it if we give lure him with treats. I’m not sure if the treat is reinforcing this behavior?

  12. So glad I found this channel, very well presented and informative.We have two border collie sister pups that are 2 months old and would love a video on training and owning two puppies,if we should separate them at bedtime and training etc.
    Thanks for what you do Ian!
    Cheers from Australia ??

  13. Can we do this to strenghten their name? I never did this in the beginning and she is hit or miss in responding to her name. I would rather recharge her name then change it.

  14. Can you make a video that could help me out? When I take my mini dachshund for walks, I cant get him to follow me. He just gets taken over by any smells, marking territory or investigating other things. I get that its part of what he is, but it shouldnt be at the cost of a walk not processing and me having to go back and actually get him. For him a walk is 2 or 3 meter steps between the next thing to smell. Not ideal. I've tried treats, enouragement, being more forcefull, on lead, off lead… what else can I try?

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