Wednesday, May 21, 2014


We Speak a Dog’s Name to Get His Attention.
A dog’s name is his primary way of being alerted that you are trying to communicate with him. In the training chapter of the book (page 235) and the section on communication between man and dog (page 148), you will discover that we say a dog’s name before any command, before anything we want to give him, even to warn him of danger. So it puts both you and your dog at a disadvantage not to have a name ready to start applying as soon as he enters your life.
  Try Out a Few Different Names and See Which One Suits Him the Best.
Experiment with two or three names that you think might work and see which one you feel suits him best. With a puppy you can call him by absolutely anything you want—it’s more the way you call him that will get the response. With a youngster his response to a name is really not as important as it is for an older dog whose name you may be changing (see chart below  on “Naming Tips”). It is your tone of voice—the energy and up-inflection when saying his name—that will catch his attention. If you give the puppy a treat when he looks up or makes eye contact or comes over when he hears his name, then you are teaching him that his name is a good thing.
  If the Dog Comes with a Name, You Can Change It.
If you are inheriting, adopting or rescuing an older puppy or mature dog, don’t feel obligated to keep his name unless you like it. If you know the dog’s name—and do not like it—before you adopt him, then you may want to choose two or three possibilities for a replacement name. You can test which one suits him best, or which one he seems to respond to more. Let’s say he was called Killer before and you like the name Satchmo (after considering the name-choosing tips in the chart below). In order to switch him over to the new name, you call him with a hyphenated name: you simply say Killer-Satch, putting emphasis on the “Satch.” Reward him with a treat when he responds to the new, hyphenated name. If you’re using a bright cheery tone it shouldn’t take more than a few days for the dog to look up at you when you say just “Satchmo”—and when he does, give him a ticker-tape parade. You want to give a jackpot treat when you get a quick response in a challenging learning situation like this. “Jackpot” is part of a theory of training reinforcement, which is described fully on page 240 of the training chapter, but basically it’s a high-value treat plus several more as booster treats.
  Move On if You Don’t Get a Fairly Fast Response to the New Name.

It could be that the replacement name you’ve chosen does not resonate with the dog—which you’ll know because he doesn’t put one and one together and come alive to the sound of that name. If that is the case, then try your second choice in the same way—say it by hyphenating it with the dog’s old name. You’ll soon see if he responds to your second choice.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

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