What's in a Name? : Happy Tails Speaks DOG
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What's in a Name?

by Michelle St Germain on 04/04/13




      The age old saying what’s in name, is something that is very relevant when dealing with dogs.    The name should mean good things are going to your dog when he hears you call it.  It shouldn’t mean Get out of the garbage or stop peeing on the floor.  It is human nature to want to scream your dog’s name at him each and every time he makes a dreadful mistake.   The more and more we continue to use his name as a reprimand, he will start to associate a negative vibe with it, and then guess what?  He stops paying attention to you when you say it.   How frustrating is that?  I think when my dog chooses to ignore me it makes me more upset then when she is making the mistake.

     So, how do we train ourselves to stop tainting Fifi’s precious name.  Well, first we can come up with another name for the dog if you wish (it can be as clean or as dirty as you wish, we do not judge here J) You can use this new name to reprimand the dog verbally when you catch him in the act of a crime #@%&* head, get out of the garden.  Do you get the drift!  What I use is very simple HEY in a tone that is relative to the crime that is being committed.   When my dog hears this, she knows to stop instantly what she is in the middle of at that moment.  She is then redirected to something else I would rather she do like come up onto the deck and lie down.

     You want to save your dog’s name for getting and keeping her attention.  Abby, CHAOS, or TOBY means please turn around and look at me.  Once I can get the initial eye contact, I have instantly increased my chances of getting her to follow another command.  A command like COME or STAY can be followed after the name is called.  If I can’t my dog to even acknowledge me after I call her name, then I have a terrible problem on my hands.  Each and every time your dog is allowed to ignore his name, is a step towards repeating that behavior over and over again.  Not a very fun way to live 12 years with a dog that ignores you.  So what is the solution to this ever common problem?  It is very simple.  Start reinforcing the dog immediately with high valued rewards for turning around to look at you at the very sound of his name.  Make him love his name.

     The NAME GAME is a fun, interactive way to do this.  If played on a daily basis several times a day for  week, you will see the results.  First you need a handful of tasty treats, a non-distractive area like the living room and a dog who has previously ignored his name.  A very cheap family night in.  Here are the rules.

·         You get to say your dog’s name ONCE and ONCE only.

·         If your dog turns around and looks at you, you will say YES and instantly REWARD with a treat.

·         If your dog does not turn around in 2 seconds your will do something other than call the dog’s name again (click your tongue, kissy noises, touch the dog…etc) 

·         Once he looks at you even with the extra help, you say YES and REWARD the dog.

·         Play the game 5 times in a row and then take a break.  You will find that your dog starts to have a new found fondness for his name now that it means a morsel of roast beef.  Your dog will start to turn around faster and faster to respond to his name.

·         Once your dog can respond well in the living room, you need to start moving to different areas of the home, once that test is passed play in the yard with no distractions, add small distractions in the house, play on the walk, at the park.

·         Gradually challenge your dog in harder situations, until his name is reinvented!

    You have the power to make the difference in how your dog responds to you.  Teach him to love that name you gave him.  I recommend that you play the name game as often as possible and in every possible situation that you would like your dog to listen to you.  This is the first step in the success of your training.








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