If you’ve stumbled across this article, you’ve probably wondered how do dogs know their name? When you call your dog’s name, they will usually bound up to you (unless they are distracted by a toy, treat, or a bird off in the distance) or, at the very least, look at you. So, we can deduce from this that our dogs probably know their names. But how do they learn that the name we thought long and hard over belongs to them? This article looks at how dogs come to recognize their name and how to teach them if they don’t.
How much dogs understand what we are saying to them can never be known for sure. However, there is much reason to believe that dogs understand more of what we are saying to them than we realize.
A study led by Dalhousie University in Canada concluded that dogs understand anywhere from 15 to 215 words and phrases, making an average of 89. This means that the average dog understands much more than “sit,” “stay,” and “lie down.” It also means that your dog is more than capable of understanding their name and will come to know it through repetition.
Since we call our dogs by their names from the time they are puppies, they come to associate their names with their owners wanting attention, as well as deductive reasoning. Positive reinforcement is crucial in your dog learning not only their name, but any command.
While some may argue that dogs recognize the tone and not the words themselves, research says otherwise. Two research groups conducted MRIs on dogs to find out which parts of dogs’ brains are active when their owners speak to them. They found that the left side of the dogs’ brains reacted to praise words, even though they were said in a neutral tone, pointing to the fact that dogs recognize the meaning of certain words.
How to Teach Your Dog Their Name
Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, they do not know the name you have chosen for them upon adoption day. Therefore, you will have to teach them their new name, and it’s essential to do so as soon as possible. A dog that knows its name knows when their owner wants their attention, whether for a positive reason or to keep them out of trouble. So, how do you teach a dog a word they have never heard before, much less the name they will be called for the rest of their lives?
When teaching your dog their new name, it’s important to associate it with something positive. And while it’s essential to be consistent in your training, it’s relatively easy to teach your dog to understand their new name using the following methods:
- Wait until your dog is not looking at you, then say their new name in a bright, cheery tone. As soon as your dog looks at you, give them positive attention through a treat, verbal praise, and/or a scratch on the head. Repeat this process several times per day for several days, and it will not be long until your dog immediately responds to their name without the promise of a treat.
- If your dog is not responding, try taking them to an area of the house that they’ll find less distracting and switch up their usual treats with something that will get their attention. We recommend cooked chicken or another safe, meaty treat.
- When you feel confident that your dog will associate their name with attention, switch up your training method. Move across the room and say his name rather than being right in front of him, or wait until a distraction is present and then say his name. Do not give him treats every time he responds to his name, but rather, every other time.
- It’s essential to be consistent when teaching your dog their new name. Do not stop their initial training until you get an automatic response from your furry friend, ensuring you have their full attention. Always follow up by calling their name with praise and affection and slowly phase out the treats as part of your training process. Eventually, your dog will stop associating the calling of their name with treats and will enjoy the love and attention that comes with it instead!
Do Not Negatively Associate Your Dog’s Name
It’s essential to never associate your dog’s name with negative language, such as “No, Max!” or “Stop it, Buddy!”. Your dog will grow to dislike the sound of their name and choose not to respond if they know it will get them negative attention.
In addition, when teaching your dog their new name, you should avoid doing the following:
- Practicing in an off-leash public area where they can get easily distracted
- Saying their name multiple times in a row
- Shouting their name if you don’t get a response
- Saying your dog’s name before each command
- Not marking the behavior immediately with praise or a treat when your dog responds to their name
The bottom line is that dogs need to know their name as a cue for communication, reliable recall, and positive associations. While it may take a while for your dog to understand their new name, they will learn much faster with persistence and positive reinforcement. Giving your dog plenty of affection after you say their name will ensure they grow to love it as much as you do!
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