Remember the first time you named your pup? You said their name over and over again, rewards in hand, while they looked at you with those big puppy dog eyes. Initially, they wouldn’t respond to their name at all. But with time, patience, and a lot of treats, they finally started coming when you called them.
Now, your dog always comes running when you call their name – even if there’s no food involved. So, is it really because they’ve learned their name?
The answer to this question varies as different dogs have different levels of intelligence. For instance, while most dogs can easily pick up a few words and commands, there special ones like Chaser the Border Collie, who learned more than a thousand names.
Read on to learn more about the question do dogs know their name and how they learn it.
Do Dogs Know Their Names?
Just like a dog learns to respond to commands like Sit, Stay and Come, they can also learn their name. However, they may not know that their name is their identifier the way we do.
For example, your dog may not understand that when you say “Fido,” you’re referring to them specifically and not just making random noise.
Think about it this way – if someone called your name while you were across the room, would you automatically turn around and walk toward them? Probably not. But if they said, “Hey, come here,” you’d probably walk over because you understand that they want you to come to them.
In the same way, your dog may not automatically respond to their name unless you add a command to it, such as “Fido, come!” or “Fido, sit!”
Another reason a dog may respond to their “name” when being called out is probably because of the tone or pitch of your voice. Naturally, pet parents use a higher pitch when calling their dog’s name or interacting with them. Hence, your dog might have learned to respond to the excited tone of your voice instead of the actual word itself.
So, when you call out your dog’s name in a high-pitched, excited tone, they would probably perk up and come running because they know that tone usually means you have something good for them – like a treat or a belly rub.
How Do Dogs Understand Words and Commands?
Apart from coming to us when their names are being called, dogs can also learn to obey commands like Sit, Stay and Come.
However, just like they don’t understand the meaning of their names, dogs also don’t understand the actual meaning of commands.
For example, when you tell your dog to “Sit,” they probably just know that they need to put their butt on the ground because that’s what you’ve been rewarding them for every time they do it.
The same goes for other commands like “Stay” and “Come. Instead, they associate the words with a certain action or behavior.
So, What About Names? How Do Dogs Learn Their Names?
Well, just like how they learn commands, they associate their name with certain actions or behaviors.
For instance, every time you call their name, you might give them a treat or pet them. As a result, your dog would eventually learn that its name is associated with something good like food, treats, or attention.
How Can You Teach Your Dog Their Name?
Regardless of the reason, you now know that a dog can actually learn and respond to their name – even if they don’t really understand what it means.
- Firstly, choose the right name
Your dog’s name should be short, only one or two syllables long, so they can easily pick it up. Avoid names that sound like common commands or ones that are too long.
Good examples of dog names include Ace, Bear, Boomer, Gizmo, Mia, and Oodles.
- Start Early
The best time to start teaching your dog their name is when they’re a puppy. Puppies have short attention spans and learn quickly, so they’re more likely to respond to their name when you start training them early on.
- Use Rewards
When you call out your dog’s name, make sure you have a treat in hand to reward them when they come to you. Dogs are highly motivated by food, so this is a great way to get their attention.
- Repeat, Repeat & Repeat
Keep saying your dog’s name often – when you’re playing with them, during meal times, or even when you’re just chilling at home. The more they hear their name, the more likely they respond to it.
Teaching Your Dog Their Name with Recall Training
One of the best ways to teach your dog their name is by using recall training. Recall training is when you train your dog to come to you whenever you call them – no matter where they are or what they’re doing. It’s an important life skill for your dog as it can help keep them safe in case they ever get lost or run off.
Here’s what you can do:
- Start by teaching your dog to come to you when you’re in close proximity. This will give them a better chance of succeeding and help build their confidence.
- Once your dog consistently comes to you when you’re nearby, start increasing the distance between you and your dog when you cue them to come.
- If your dog is struggling to come to you at a certain distance, try using a higher-value treat or toy to help them understand that coming to you is worth their while.
- As your dog becomes more reliable with their recall, start adding in distractions (like other people or dogs) and cueing them to come from different places (like the other side of the room).
- Remember to always praise and reward your dog when they come to you, even if it’s just for a quick pat on the head. It’ll reinforce that coming to you is a good thing and something they should continue to do.
Don’t Hesitate to Seek Professional Help
If you’re struggling to teach your dog their name or recall training isn’t going as planned, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a qualified dog trainer.
They will be able to give you tailored advice on how to best train your dog and help you troubleshoot any problems you may be having.
Some of My Favorite Products For Dog Owners
I hope this article has helped you just a bit in everyday life as a dog owner. Being a dog owner for more than 25 years myself, I’ve tried an abundance of different products with varying success, but these products below are some that I can highly recommend to every dog and their owner without hesitation!
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Dog Training: If you’ve ever owned a puppy, you know that they require a lot of training to grow into a well-behaved adult. Brain Training for Dogs has helped me immensely with the mental training part of raising a dog, and it’s something I strongly recommend you consider.
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If you’re looking for the most up-to-date recommendations, check out my recommended products section that I’ve created to help every dog owner!