Photo by Pete Bellis Photo by Pete Bellis

The dog turns to you (and away from distractions in the environment) the moment he hears his name. We are teaching the dog’s name to mean “look at me.” With practice, the dog’s response to his name will become an automatic, conditioned response.

Why?

The Name Game is one of the most useful tools in training because it taught your dog to listen to you. If you don’t have your dog’s attention, it’s hard to get anything else from your dog.

How to Teach it

Start practicing the Name Game at home, in a non-distracting environment. Have a clicker in one hand and treats in another.
Say your dog’s name, then click and treat. Click the moment he looks at you, and then deliver your food reward. So, there are three steps:

  1. Say your dog’s name
  2. Click when he turns and then
  3. Give him the treat

Tips for Success

1. When you practice, put both hands (with the clicker and treats) behind your back and then say the dog’s name. The reason for this is you don’t want to move your hand to deliver the treat until the dog responds to his name by turning his head to you. Otherwise, your dog will focus on your arm and hand movements rather than your verbal cue (his name).

With both hands behind your back, click the moment your dog turns his head towards you (away from his environment) or looks at you.

Quickly give him a treat after you click. But, don’t click at the same time you’re moving your hand to deliver the treat. Make sure you deliver the treat right after you click.

After you get the mechanics of saying the name, then clicking, then moving your hand to deliver a treat, you won’t need your hands behind your back.

2. Practice a minimum of seven times a day

3. Practice in each room of the house

4. Work when your dog is hungry

5. Use good treats—the mushier and smellier the better! Inside you should be able to use your dog’s kibble. In fact, have him earn part of his breakfast and dinner through training. Outdoors, use a variety of high value treats such as chicken, liver, or roast beef.

6. Do not reward your dog if he doesn’t respond to his name, and do NOT repeat the name. If you repeat his name, he will learn not to listen to you!

7. Reward each time your dog is successful, since we are building and instilling a behavior.

8. You can use activity rewards such as throwing a ball or proceeding out the front door for a walk.

9. Try not to use your dog’s name during the day outside of training. Otherwise, it could become background noise to your dog.