Once your dog begins to learn its name, you can begin moving on to more advanced commands, but never stop praising for the most simple and important command of all – responding to a name call.
The first command you should teach your new puppy is not a command at all, but rather name recognition. The name command can be taught from day 1. It is vital that your pup learns to look at you when his or her name is called. Saying a dog’s name let’s them know that you want them to stop and pay attention because a command is about to follow, nothing more. The name command should only have 1 meaning to be effective and ensure confusion is limited as much as possible. Remember, any other commands prove useless if your dog isn’t acknowledging you in the first place.
Puppies should associate their name with something good, never bad. Let us repeat that, a dog’s name is ALWAYS positive. This is one of the biggest challenges for dog owners when bringing home a puppy for the first time. It is very easy to shout “Name!” as you catch your pup acting out of line whether it be peeing in the house, chewing up your socks, or gnawing on the coffee table. Remember to consistently associate your dog’s name with something good, as this is how you will initially condition them.
Positive reinforcement is the only form of teaching we recommend for young dogs. Name recognition is very easy to teach in this manner. Simply give your dog a treat or praise everytime he looks at you when the name is called. To start, have some treats on hand and wait until your puppy is looking at you. Say the name followed a praise word (“good boy”, “yes,” etc.) and the treat. Once your dog gets comfortable with this setting, start testing him when he is distracted and not paying attention to you. Call his name when he is busy playing with a toy, going for a walk, or active in another challenging situation. Once he lifts his head to look at you, repeat the praise word and give him a treat immediately.
If necessary, use a leash as an intermediate step if your dog does not look at you the first time. When you get no response after his name is called, gently pull on the leash to make him look at you. Although it might seem counterintuitive, don’t use the name too often. Try and use your dog’s name once in each exercise. Most people make the mistake of saying a name over and over, and this can cause a white noise effect. Furthermore, use as few nicknames as possible. Nicknames are great for human conversation, as your dog will not get confused and expect a command, but can add uncertainty for younger dogs if 5 different names are used alongside their given name.
As with any dog training, consistency and repetition are key. Once your dog begins to learn its name, you can begin moving on to more advanced commands, but never stop praising for the most simple and important command of all – responding to a name call.
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