How to teach a dog its name once it arrives home

If you’re awaiting the arrival of your new puppy or older dog, it’s likely you’ll be busy learning as much as possible to get ready for your dog’s first few days with you. 

When bringing a puppy home, there’s a lot to think about. From ensuring your house is puppy-proofed, to making sure you have everything they need, organisation is key to a smooth transition.

One of the most exciting things to think about is your puppy's name, but you also need to know how to teach a dog its name for training and safety purposes:

Puppy Learning Name. Photo Credit: Mikedabell, Canva

What to name a dog?

While you can name your puppy whatever you’d like, there are some general tips to follow to prevent your name choice from causing confusion during training. When choosing a name for a dog, we advise to:

  • Choose a name that you, friends and family members will be comfortable and confident enough to call out in public 
  • Avoid names which sound very similar to training commands. As an example, names like Britt or Kit are difficult for dogs to differentiate to the command ‘sit’ 
  • Remember that dogs respond to sounds rather than language. The best names are short words with 1 - 2 clear syllables. 

How long does it take for a dog to learn its name?  

It shouldn't take too long for a dog to learn their name, as this is usually one of the easiest things to teach dog to respond to. 

While dog trainers report that puppies can learn their name in 1 - 3 days, the exact time it will take for your dog to pick it up will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • How often you practice with them 
  • How consistent you are with name training
  • The age of your dog
  • The type of breed (some breeds find it easier to learn commands than others) 

How to teach a puppy its name: 

After you have chosen your puppy’s name and welcomed them into the fold, it’s time to start with name training.

Your puppy's first few days at home are formative ones, and you should make an effort to establish boundaries from the onset.

It's never too early for a puppy to start learning, and the sooner you get going with training the easier it'll be.

To first start to introduce your puppy to their name, you can crouch down close-by and call out their name clearly in an enthusiastic tone.

As your puppy approaches, be sure to provide plenty of verbal praise and give them lots of attention and strokes when they reach you.

💡 Top Tip: Dogs primarily learn their name through classical conditioning, which is a learning process that happens through association. For quick results, it's a good idea to practice with your dog at least 10 times a day. 

Orientation Games: 

Improving name recognition through orientation games is a great way to teach a young dog their name, while also getting them familiar with training skills that will be needed in the future. 

To teach a dog their name using the orientation game, you should start in an area where there are minimal distractions. 

  1. With your dog by your side, throw a small amount of their food between 3 - 4 feet away from where you are standing. 
  2. Your dog should run to eat the food before turning back to look at you (usually in the hope of more food!). At this point, you can give verbal praise with words like ‘yes!’ and throw more food to your dog to indicate that they are demonstrating the correct behaviour. 
  3. Repeat this pattern and each time they retrieve the food, call out their name just before they turn around for more.

Over time, you can start to add more and more distractions to ensure your dog learns to respond to their name no matter what else is going on around them.

Being able to easily get your dog’s attention is an important part of responsible dog ownership. It is crucial for dog recall training, and without it, you risk putting your dog in danger when out and about in public.

Can I rename my dog? 

Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to rename a dog once they have mastered name recognition. However, there are certain situations where renaming a dog may be beneficial:

  • Your dog has suffered abuse: If you know that your dog has been rehomed with you following a period of abuse or neglect, then a new name could help to ensure healthy recovery and mental rehabilitation. Your dog may associate their prior name to their abusive home, whereas a new name in a loving environment can help to establish a fresh start.
  • You’ve adopted a rescue dog and are unsure of their history: Dog shelters and rescue organisations tend to advocate name changes for dogs with unknown backgrounds.

How to teach an older dog their name: 

Teaching an older dog their name is likely to take longer than naming a newborn puppy.

If you are renaming a rescue dog, it is even more crucial to be patient with the process and provide plenty of verbal praise. 

Rewards-based training is one of the best ways to ensure positive association with a dog's new name. Just like puppies, dogs will benefit from plenty of practice, treats and verbal reassurance.

No two dogs are the same, which is why it’s important to work with the dog you own and figure out what they respond well to. Always keep your body language positive, and use an enthusiastic tone of voice to indicate that you’re pleased with their behaviour. 

No matter how long it takes to see improvement, you must continue to show your puppy or dog love and affection. 

💡 Top Tip: Avoid using your dog’s name to scold them for something. Otherwise, your dog will start to associate their name with negative feelings and experiences, which will impact training in the long run. 

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