So you got a new dog and finally gave them a great name. You try calling their name, but why aren’t they responding?
Dogs only learn their name once they can clearly see and hear your signals. It can require extensive training before they automatically respond when called.
Discover when dogs start learning their names and when you should start training them. Make the training process more effortless with some handy tips.
When Do Dogs Know Their Name?
Dogs should know their name by about 12 weeks old because it is the age where their vision and hearing are fully developed.
Puppies are born deaf with their eyes closed. They only open their eyes once they are 21 days old.
However, their vision remains limited. They usually rely on their sense of smell during this critical development stage.
Their sense of hearing is the last to develop. Dogs only start hearing at 21 days old, then it is around nine more weeks before it becomes fully developed.
Our puppies only “know” their name during this point of their lives because they rely on sounds and gestures to understand us. They do not fully comprehend that “Max” or “Fido” is their name.
All they do is react to human signals. In fact, our furry friends do not require extensive training to respond to complex gestures.
Therefore, what we believe is their name is just another sound for them. For example, if you clap your hand while saying “Hey, Cooper!”, they will instantly know it’s their cue to approach you.
That’s why their senses are essential in recognizing their name. Training with positive reinforcement is essential so your dog will know their name and how to respond when you use it.
Training Your Dog to Learn Their Name
You can start training your dog to learn their name as soon as you bring them home. This is usually at around 8 weeks old.
The first few days and weeks are crucial for your puppy’s development so spend as much time with them as you can.
Make sure to start in a distraction-free environment. Do not train your dog in the dog park or when other family members are in the room.
Do not combine the name-calling activity with a clap or other gesture yet. Just call their name in a bright and happy tone.
A clicker is helpful but optional. You can mark the command word with a clicker to let your dog know that they have done well.
Once they look at you, you can say “yes” or “good” and give them a treat.
Using Food as Motivation
Food is one reward you should use when training your dog. It is a great motivator for dogs.
Use their favorite treat to lure them into responding the right way when they hear their name. It will speed up the training process as your dog learns.
Start by saying your puppy’s name a few times. If they look at you, immediately reward them. Doing so will motivate them to keep looking at you.
Try pairing the word command with a gesture as your puppy gets better. It can be a clap, snap, or clicker. Give more food rewards to your dog if they respond well.
If food doesn’t work, you can try using other high-value rewards like their favorite toy. Or change the treat to different foods, like a small piece of pork or turkey.
Make it Challenging
Once your dog responds to being called, it’s time to make the training more challenging.
There are two ways you can step up the challenge.
First, move to a more distracting environment. New places will make your dog more curious about their surroundings.
They will experience the dilemma of whether to respond to you or keep playing and exploring.
Try going to the dog park and performing the same training session with your dog. Call their name, use a clicker, then reward them with a treat if they respond.
Keep doing this until your puppy’s muscle memory is at its best.
The next challenge you should try is to remove the treat gradually. Let your puppy focus on you even if they have already responded to their name.
Wait for about 15 seconds before rewarding them.
Then, you can reinforce the behavior intermittently. Only reward your dog after two to three responses. Or until you get a strong reaction.
Once your puppy is ready, at about 18 weeks old, you can combine these challenges. Move to a distracting place while pausing the rewards.
Your dog should already have mastered their name at four to five months old. No matter where you are and who you’re with, they should quickly respond to their name being called.
This successful training is only possible with consistency. Reinforce the behavior many times until the treats become unnecessary.
What to Do When Your Dog Ignores Their Name
If your dog ignores their name, it doesn’t necessarily mean they do not know it. It could only mean that they don’t get enough rewards when responding.
Your dog does not see anything positive about moving or approaching you when you call them because they do not get treats, affection, and rewards anymore.
Another possible reason is that they associate their name with bad experiences. Perhaps you only call them when you want to scold them.
You only say “No, Buddy” or “Bad dog, Buddy” when they chew your furniture or try to pee in the house.
If this is the case, go back to basics training your dog to respond to their name.
Keep calling their name while also offering their favorite treats. Maybe you can pair it with playtime, verbal praises, and fun toys.
Once your dog enjoys being called again, they won’t ignore you again.
The History of Naming Our Dogs
Humans have named their dogs since the moment we domesticated these creatures. We can trace this to the Ancient Greeks, who treated dog-naming as a symbol of ownership.
If you’ve ever had a child, you know how critical—even scary—it is to pick the perfect name for them. The same is true with dogs, whom we treat as family members.
Dogs’ names were usually short yet meaningful. Ancient Greeks loved referencing dog names to concepts like beauty and strength.
How to Name Your Puppy
Dogs recognize their names better when the name is short, simple, and easy to learn. Here are some tips for naming your dog:
- Your dog’s name should end in a vowel. That’s because vowel sounds usually have higher frequency levels. “Rocky” and “Leo” are better than “Max” and “Collins” because they will quickly get your puppy’s attention.
- Don’t choose creative names. Choose a motivating name that will make you happy to give your dog a command. Will people enjoy asking “Poopy” to sit?
- Don’t pick a name that sounds like a command. “Bae” sounds like “stay,” and “Bo” sounds like “no.” Choose a unique name that will not cause your dog confusion.
- Don’t go over two syllables. Not only is “Benjamin” hard to say when calling your dog, but it’s also challenging for your dog to understand.
- Consider your dog’s personality. Don’t give a tough dog name to your Miniature Poodle or Chihuahua. The point is not to stereotype but to give other people an impression of your dog’s personality. If “Sugar” ever gets lost, people will understand what type of dog they’re looking for.
- Do not change your dog’s name. Once you have chosen a name for your dog, stick with it. Don’t change your mind after a few days because you suddenly hate the name. It will only confuse your dog.
- Avoid too many nicknames. Nicknames are fun. However, too many will make your dog confused. If your dog’s name is “Miguel,” do not quickly morph it into “Migs,” “Miggy,” “Mr. Mig,” or “Miggyman.” Test only a few nicknames and find one that will work.
Do Dogs Know Their Name?
Yes dogs do know their name. But they only know it as a command they have learned to respond to.
Dogs are intelligent enough to remember words we tell them. But they do not have an understanding of personal identification or association with names.
They learn all of these through classical conditioning. They will respond if you give them treats or any form of reward until they know how to respond without one.
Find out more about how your dog knows their name.
How Do Dogs Say Sorry?
Dogs apologize with their body language since they cannot communicate with words.
Although dogs recognize words, they cannot tell us how ashamed they are of their mistakes.
They show shame when they tuck their tails between legs, have flattened ears, and lick you.
Other dogs whimper, avoid eye contact, yawn, and cower when they are sorry for what they did.
But it’s not entirely true that dogs feel guilty for their mistakes. Learn whether dogs feel guilty and how they say sorry to their humans.
How Do I Teach My Dog to Come When Called?
The trick to letting your dog approach you is to call their name and instantly give rewards when they come to you.
But thorough preparation is also necessary. Make sure you spend days not calling your dog for the wrong reasons. Only teach your dog to come when they see it as a positive thing.
Another tip is to establish a command word. Make sure “come” has always been a positive command if you want to use it. Another term you can try is “here.”
Check out the complete steps to teaching your dog to come when called.
Set Your Puppy Up for Success
Now you know the right age for puppies to learn their name.
Stay consistent in training your puppy. It helps to have their favorite treat as a reward every time they respond to you.
Then, take the reward away and keep training your dog to respond to their name.
Everything starts with good training. Whether you teach your puppy to respond to their name or walk on the leash, these ten dog training tips will make the process more effective.