There are many exciting things in the world for a dog that can easily distract them, so gaining your dog's attention is the foundation of all dog training.
What is the point of teaching my puppy to respond to their name?
It is mandatory to keep your dog under control at all times. The foundation of this is teaching your dog to respond when called by name. Whether in an emergency, in the presence of other dogs, or in the presence of distractions, it is critical that your dog finds it rewarding to respond to their name and seek your interaction.
This can be accomplished by using a variety of attention and focus exercises to teach your dog that when they hear their name and look at you, they will receive a reward.
Start with the basics
Set the stage for your dog's success by starting training in a calm, quiet environment with no distractions. Say the dog's name (from 2 to 6 feet away) at least 10 times per day, and as soon as the dog looks at you, mark this behaviour with a marker word such as "yes" or a clicker, and reward with food or play while giving lots of praise. Do not ask the dog to sit or do anything else before rewarding them with a treat, as the reward is for looking at you when you say their name, not for any other behaviour.
You will soon notice your dog offering attention without being asked; be prepared to reinforce this with a reward to encourage your dog to check in with you on a regular basis.
- Begin in an area where there is little chance of distraction and where your dog is used to playing with you.
- Throw a piece of your dog's daily food allowance (about one metre away).
- After they've eaten the piece, they'll naturally turn to you for more; mark this with a 'yes' or a click, and throw another piece.
- Once your dog is consistently turning around, introduce your dog's name just before they turn around, then mark and reward.
- You can make this game more exciting and interesting for your dog by placing a treat on the floor and running backwards as soon as your dog has eaten the food. When they arrive, reward them with food or a toy and lavish them with praise.
- Repeat with another reward on the floor, and have FUN!
Remember, your job is to evaluate the training environment and gradually increase the level of distraction. Increase the value of your reinforcement (treats or play) as you increase the distractions.
If your dog does not respond to their name, take a step back to ensure success before increasing the level of distractions again.