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How To Teach A Puppy Its Name

Puppy looking up


Bringing home a new puppy is so much fun, and you undoubtedly want to do everything perfectly. So, you puppy-proof your home, gather your supplies, and do everything you can to avoid making any mistakes. One of the best parts is coming up with the perfect name for your pup.

But, a dog's name isn't all about the cuteness factor — it's also a significant part of communicating with your canine companion. Plus, your puppy's name will factor highly into helping your dog focus as well as keeping your pal safe.

When you call your dog's name, you expect them to respond. Their name is how your dog recognizes you're talking to them. Your dog should know their name so well that it grabs their attention when you say it, no matter what your inquisitive pup is up to.

So, knowing just how important it is for a dog to know their name, you can't help but wonder, how does a puppy learn their name? It takes intentional practice and lots of repetition, but your puppy will learn their moniker relatively quickly with consistency.

What's In A (Dog) Name?

Romeo and Juliet might not have been thinking about dogs when Juliet uttered the famous line, but your dog's name means a lot. If you tried to call your pup any other name, they'd either ignore you or look at you with the adorable doggy head tilt of confusion.

Dog names range from silly to rugged to beautiful and everything in between. Some people even name their pups after people they greatly admire. But whether you call your pal Fido, Rocky, or Mabel — your dog hears their name and responds. 

This reaction is because dogs know that this specific word refers to them. When they hear you say it, they snap to attention because they understand you're talking to them.

Why Is It Important For A Puppy To Learn Their Name?

The primary reasons you want your dog to learn their name are attention, safety, and bonding. Saying your dog’s name is a way to grab their attention quickly, which is crucial during certain situations.

For example, if your pup starts to head toward a busy street, you can say their name, and they should turn their attention to you. Then, you can give them a command to come to you or stay — keeping them safe from danger. Finally, saying your pup’s name affectionately and cheerfully is a great way to build the bond between you and your dog.

Puppy at the park

Tips For Teaching Your Puppy Their Name

Before you go through the process of teaching your puppy their name, here are a few pointers to guide you.

Keep Things Positive

Speak positively and maintain a calm demeanor—your dog can sense your feelings. Plus, your dog gets to learn your tone of voice, so when you combine their name with a particular tone, you can instantly communicate to your pup how you're feeling. It’s important to be well aware of this since if you’re not careful, you might unwittingly cause your dog to associate their name with negative feelings. 
For example, you should say your dog’s name in an upbeat tone of voice to create positive associations for your pup. Plus, you'll get a happy tail wag in return.  But, speak their name firmly and with frustration or anger, and you might get the puppy look of shame. If you do this while you’re training your pup, they’ll likely start to ignore their name instead of responding to it.

Start With Few Distractions And Increase Them

When you start working with your puppy on learning their name (and any training), find a quiet place with no distractions. Puppies can tend to get wiggly and excited, so the more you can help them focus, the better. 

Once your pup seems to respond consistently to their name, add in some distractions. Try saying their name to them in a busier room of the house. Again, once their response is consistent, up the ante and take them outside, etc. You ideally want to reach the point where your pup responds to their name amidst many things happening at once.

If you take the training out in public, like a park, don’t forget to keep your puppy on a leash. It’s critical to follow safety practices, not only for your puppy but for others around you. Plus, most states have strict leash laws that you need to adhere to when out and about with your pooch.

Help Your Puppy Stay Calm And Focused

If your puppy is wildly energetic, have a fun play session and give them some engaging toys. Then, they’ll be able to focus better when you’re working on their name lesson. If your puppy seems anxious, give them some time to calm down a bit. 

On the go, you can use a calming collar. Also, using products like the Neat-Lik Mat is a great way to help your pup maintain a calm demeanor. Licking releases endorphins which help your dog calm down and destress.

Steps For Teaching Your Puppy Their Name

With the basic tips in mind, gather some yummy treats that your dog loves and follow these steps. Remember the 3 Rs: Repetition, Response, and Reward.

  • Say your puppy’s name one time in a pleasant voice.
  • As soon as your puppy responds, give them a positive word like “Good!” and reward them with a tasty treat. It’s essential to mark the behavior right away, so your dog forms the correct connections. Furthermore, positive reinforcement works best to teach your dog desirable habits.
  • If your pup doesn’t respond, don’t keep repeating their name. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to say it over and over again in the future. Instead, use a clap, whistle, or kissing sound to get your dog’s attention. 
  • Keep repeating, repeating, and repeating this process until your dog responds consistently to their name.

Once your pup knows their name, they should respond the first time you say it from now on. Plus, you shouldn’t need to use your dog’s name every time you teach them a new command. For example, when you teach your dog to sit, you should just have to say “sit,” not “Bubbles, sit!”

What If I Want To Change My Puppy's Name?

It’s not uncommon to adopt a dog and not be very keen on their name. Luckily, you can change your dog’s name to one you like better if you keep things positive and follow the above steps.

Will My Puppy Respond To More Than One Name?

Yes, it's hard to settle on the perfect name sometimes. With so many great dog names out there, how do you choose just one? But, when you think about it, people (mostly) don't go by multiple names. However, what many people do have is a nickname. 

So, perhaps your dog has a name and a nickname that people often call them. As long as you're not trying to give your pup too many names, you can certainly get them to respond to a couple of variations. 

Due to repetition and response alone, your dog will likely pick up on the fact you're talking to them when you use the nickname. More than likely, you might start referring to them only by their nickname. But if you want them to respond to both, you'll need to use both regularly; otherwise, your pal is prone to stop answering to their original name. 

Now that you know how to teach your puppy their name, all you need to do is decide on the best name for your dog. In the meantime, check out our blog for other helpful resources and scope out some potential dog name ideas for your pet.

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