What’s in a Name?

If you’re anything like me, you have a piece of paper stashed away with a list of potential names for your next couple of dogs. If you’re nothing like me, I’m sure you at least spent some time determining your dog’s name when you first got him! Or perhaps your children used their young creative juices to come up with a clever name. Popcorn was the name of my first pet…very appropriate for a guinea pig…

So is there anything you should consider in picking a dog’s name? Well, some say that a quick, one syllable word is most appropriate to catch your dog’s attention. Such as Reese! She picked up on her name very quickly. However, so did Elsa. But the point is that there’s no reason to have a long name, your dog will have a hard time making the connection that it’s his name. Plus, your neighbors may look at your strange if you keep repeating “go pee pee Mr. Chew-Chee Jingles, go pee pee.”

What’s more important in regards to your dog’s name is that you can teach your dog not only to know his name, but to always react to it! No more “Rover! Roooover! ROVER!” First, determine if your dog is currently reacting to his name. Wait for a distraction, such as someone at the door, treats on the ground, or a good bone that he’s chewing on. Say his name. If he doesn’t react, you’ve got some work to do! If he does react…good! But try in a couple of different situations. If he’s not reacting every time you say his name, you can certainly benefit from re-teaching him his name!

Teaching your dog his name is simple. Start with a handful of cookies in one hand and bring your pup to a room with no distractions. Say his name and then give him a treat. Then say it again and give him another treat. Yup, that’s all you need to do! Soon, he associates his name with a cookie…what a fun game! Your dog will learn to love it and it’s something you can do at anytime with ease….even when you’re plopped down on the couch after a long day of work. Eventually, once your dog has the “name game” down pat, try with limited distractions. Go into the room where your kids are playing or take him outside. Keep increasing the distractions and play the game everywhere you go…you’ll be sure to always have your dog’s undivided attention!

Sounds easy, right? Well, there’s always a catch…

Remember what I said about consistency?? During the “name game,” it’s easy to keep things positive, your dog gets cookies every time you say his name!

But what happens when you don’t have cookies in your hand, you’re late for work, you throw open the door to let your dog out into the pouring rain before you leave, and suddenly he takes off after a squirrel? In your haste you scream your dog’s name over and over again! Certainly he’s not going to listen to that (I don’t think I would either!) Or you come home from a long day of work and he had chewed your brand new couch, and once again, you yell his name and put him into the crate. Suddenly, hearing his name does not always mean a cookie. It could mean a cookie, but it also could mean that he’s in trouble, you’re not happy, he’s going into the crate. The association will be lost and your dog will learn once again to ignore, or “not know” his name.

So the important thing to remember is to only use your dog’s name with positive associations. Even if you don’t have cookies, praise and pat your dog if you say his name and he gives you attention. Say his name before you give him his breakfast, before you go for a walk, and before he gets a cookie. And if he does something wrong, just say “NO, not “Rover, NO.” That way, whenever he hears his name, it’s worth listening to! Soon your dog will learn to know and love his name!

Unless, of course, it’s Mr. Chew-Chee Jingles…