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

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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!