How To Use Your Dog’s Name

Your dog’s name is the most important word he knows.

How to Use Your Dog’s Name to Build Trust and Love

If you know how to use your dog’s name to build trust, you will have a better-behaved dog.  Here are two ways you might actually be teaching your dog to ignore his name.  Nobody does it intentionally, but communication breaks down when we forget that dogs think like dogs and not like people.

First: Don’t ever use your dog’s name as a reprimand.

Your dog is going to act like a dog – sometimes chewing, barking, digging, jumping – and you’ll want to redirect or change his behavior.  If you react by using his name to let him know you are upset with him, your dog learns that his name sometimes means bad things will happen to him.

As humans, we waste a lot of time scolding and reprimanding dogs.  Unfortunately, the reprimands you use often include your dog’s name in a tone of voice that is scary to a dog.

How to use your dog’s name when he gets into trouble – that’s when you most need him to trust you.  Therefore, don’t use his name as a reprimand!

For example, let’s say you have carelessly left your pair of expensive shoes where your puppy could get them.  The shoes smell like you so he takes one of them.  When you see your puppy carrying your shoe in his mouth, you might reprimand him with his name and cause him to run from you in fear (flight instinct).

You mean to get his attention, but you’re really frightening him. 

As a result, you teach him to have a negative association with his name (classical conditioning).

Furthermore, the irony is that the dog learns to fear and avoid you and not the behavior (taking your shoe).  Using your dog’s name as a reprimand has unintended consequences.

What should you do instead?

Make sure that your dog has a positive association with his name.  You can do this intentionally.  Decide that you will only use his name in a positive, friendly and loving way.  If you must scold him for something, never include his name.

You can use classical conditioning by speaking your dog’s name as you pet him, praise him, or reward him with a treat or a toy.  You want your dog to learn that his name always means that good things will happen to him.

Second: Don’t endlessly repeat your dog’s name as a substitute for a specific request.

Your dog can learn a lot of words. You can teach him to obey commands, do tricks, and fetch certain toys by name.  If you say, “Let’s go for a walk!” he might run to the door.

Certainly, your dog’s name is the most important word he knows.

It was probably the first word he learned.  Therefore, you want it to mean something special. His name represents the bond of love and trust between you and your dog.

Just say “Sit”!

Consequently, you confuse your dog by nagging him with his name when specific word would tell him exactly what you want him to do.   Rather than repeating his name, tell your dog to sit and to quit jumping on you.

Repeating your dog’s name without a positive association can cause it to become just meaningless noise.

Above all, remember to use your dog’s name to build the bond of love and trust between you.  Don’t water down its importance by letting your dog’s name become meaningless noise.


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