This Is the First Game You Should Play With Your Puppy. Here’s Why.

Teaching a puppy their name can seem like the last thing on your list when you get a new dog. But it’s very important, and rewarding, for you both. After all, in their first few days with you, everything your puppy thought they knew about the world has completely changed. No more littermates, no more mama. The home they knew for their first few weeks is gone and, in most cases, even the name they were given at birth has been replaced with something new. It’s your job to educate your puppy so they’ll be successful in your home and in the world in general. It’s a tall order and sometimes an overwhelming one. Where does a new puppy parent start?

How about at the beginning? Give your pup a name and teach them to respond to it. It’s fun, it’s not too difficult, and it will help you train your puppy in the future.

Teaching a puppy their name: how to start

The easiest way to teach your dog how to respond to their new name is by using the obviously titled “name game.” This simple training exercise is a great way to start communicating with your pup and building a foundation for more advanced training skills.

Here’s how to play the name game:

  1. Say your pup’s name in a happy tone of voice (one time only).
  2. When your dog turns towards the sound, mark the moment with the word “Yes!” or a clicker.
  3. Reward your dog with a treat, a quick tug session, or with praise and affection.
  4. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Yup, it’s pretty much that easy. But, you say, if my dog doesn’t know their name yet are they really going to turn towards me when they hear it? Sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t. For example, if your dog is distracted when you say their name, they’re less likely to turn towards you. So then what?

In a distracting environment or if your puppy simply failed to turn towards you quickly after saying their name, you need to make yourself a little more exciting by adding in an extra step.

Teaching a puppy their name: part II

  1. Say your pup’s name in a happy tone of voice (one time only).
  2. If the puppy doesn’t turn towards you, do not repeat their name. Instead, make some interesting noises to get their attention (kissy sounds, whistles, robot noises, etc.)
  3. Mark the moment they turn to look at you with the word “Yes!” or a clicker.
  4. Reward your dog with a treat, a quick tug session or with praise and affection.
  5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

As you practice the name game, you’ll find your dog turning toward you more often, both during training sessions and any other time they hear their name. They’re learning that the funny word you keep saying pays. And if that funny word pays well enough, it’s worth responding to.

Before you know it, your dog will be confidently turning their attention towards you when they hear their name.

Teaching a puppy to respond to their name, which is the best name ever (of course), is the first step to a long and happy life together. Go for it!

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