Naming a new puppy can be both challenging and fun. Whether you choose a name from a list of popular dog names or come up with one on your own, it’s a big decision. After all, you’ll be referring to your new pup by that name for a long time.
Once you’ve chosen a name, the challenge of teaching it to him begins. You’ll use it not only to show love, but to call your pet back after an escape or to get his attention whenever you need it. For these reasons, teaching your new puppy his name is an essential first step of training. Here are a few tips to get you started.
From the start, you should only use the name in a positive manner. For instance, if you come home to find your dog has chewed a hole in the rug, don’t reprimand him by shouting his name. Similarly, if you use his name to call him toward you, the immediate next step should be doing something he likes like hearing your praise, petting him or playing a game with his favorite toy. Make sure enough time passes after he comes to you before he experiences something he doesn’t like such as being put in a crate and having you leave. You don’t want him to ever think that calling his name means something negative will follow.
Any time you’re training your dog something new, remove as many distractions as possible. Hide some treats in a pocket and find a quiet place inside your home where you can start teaching him his name. When your dog is not looking at you, say his name in a calm, happy and positive tone. Wait until your dog looks at you and gives you eye contact. Immediately when he does this, mark this behavior as correct by clicking if you are using a clicker or saying a word like “yes”. Then follow with a treat from your pocket. Practice this several times throughout the day. Once your dog starts to understand his name, you can occasionally substitute the treat with your praise “Good Boy”. Sometimes the reward is a treat and sometimes it’s your praise. Over time, you can completely remove the treat and use only praise for when he gives you eye contact after you call his name.
Once you’ve somewhat mastered training in your confined environment, continue to practice training throughout the day adding more distractions. Keep treats in your pocket and say his name at random times. When he responds, reward him with the treat or other positive reinforcement. Have the rest of your household join in on saying his name and rewarding him for responding. Over time, you’ll find he responds to his name without expecting either a treat or praise for it.
If you’re bringing a new puppy home, my training tips can help. I also have a new-dog checklist that will ensure you get everything you need in one trip to the pet store. Check out my training page to help you get started with your new family member.