Dog Commands from Experts - Teach Your Dog to Respond to Their Name (And Have Them Listen!)

Dog Commands from Experts - Teach Your Dog to Respond to Their Name

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Dogs speak dog, and unless you speak dog fluently, you need to find the best way to communicate with them. Learn how to get your pet to respond to his/her name.

Parenting, even when your kids have four legs, is never an easy task. Maybe you planned for this day and read all the books, or maybe it just happened! Either way, the cutest little puppy is peeing on the kitchen floor, while staring up at you with adoring eyes. And all you can think is, โ€œNow what?!?โ€

Lucky for you, four-legged children are ECADโ€™s specialty, and we would like to give back to the many people who have given to us by sharing some knowledge with the world. So with the help of PetCareRx, ECAD has created quick reference guides that share some tips and tricks that may help you in your pet parenting journey.

Before we start home schooling your pet, it's imperative that you, the parents, first participate in a few Train-the-Trainer lessons. By being prepared with the appropriate knowledge and methodology, you will not only increase the success of the training, but you will enjoy spending quality time with your puppy as well.

Train-the-Trainer: Communication

Dogs speak dog. English is a second language, but dog is their first and fluent language, and unless you speak dog fluently, you need to a find a way to communicate with them. Since Rosetta Stone has not come out with a dog version yet, ECAD has found cues and patterning to be the best form of communication.

Cues are hand signals, body positions, sounds (whistles, snaps, claps, โ€œkissyโ€ noises, etc.) that are basically hints for what you want the dog to accomplish.

Targeting is a physical cue, while Commands are verbal cues.

Patterning is doing something over and over until it becomes automatic through muscle memory. By patterning, we can eliminate targeting and rely solely on commands to get the dogs to respond to a desired behavior.

Now that we understand how to communicate, the next question might be, โ€œWhat should we communicate?โ€

The Dogโ€™s Name

When you say the dogโ€™s name, you are telling the dog to pay attentionโ€”a command is coming. You are not telling the dog to come to you, to sit, or to perform any additional task other than to recognize that you have called their name and they should focus their attention on you.

Teaching Method

Say your dogโ€™s name, and as soon as the puppy looks at you, reward them with a treat. When you talk about your puppy to friends, or are referring to the puppy but donโ€™t want it to do anything specific, use a nickname. Otherwise the puppy will inappropriately respond to their name, or the name will no longer hold merit and it will become irrelevant โ€œnoiseโ€ to your pet.  

It is critical that the pupโ€™s name is ALWAYS positive. Donโ€™t use their name to scold. Indicators are used for that, which will be covered in the next lesson.


Practice the โ€œDogโ€™s Nameโ€ command, and play with cues, both targeting and commands, to have fun with your puppy.  

How to Teach Your Dog to Fetch

Playtime can be training in disguise, especially when you teach your dog to fetch. But be warned: As a pet parent, you need to determine the rules of fair play and enforce those rules. Grabbing the toy from you, ripping it up, and playing keep away may be fun for your dog, but not for you! When things get too wild, stop playing immediately! Also use a durable fetch toy like the Dogsavers Flyer so that the toy lasts years of biting and torture.

How do you determine if your puppy has turned a fun game of tug or fetch into something different? Pay attention to your dogโ€™s body language. If your dog is jumping on you, grabbing at the toy, nipping at your hands, shaking the toy in their mouth, growling and becoming vocal, or refusing to return the toy to you, you must stop playing with them. These behaviors may be cute for a puppy, but when your dog gets older and bigger it will no longer be so fun. By rewarding the behavior of appropriate play and discouraging inappropriate play, you can avoid teaching your dog bad habits.  

When you have established the rules of play, tug and fetch are more enjoyable for both of you. ECAD has found these two games to be the ideal teaching environment for training the commands โ€œGet Itโ€ and โ€œGiveโ€.

The "GIVE" Command

โ€œGiveโ€ means that your hand is on the item and your puppy releases the item from their mouth.

Teaching Method

Step 1: Place your hand on the item and say, โ€œFido, Give,โ€ but do not pull on the item. 

Step 2a: If your dog does not release the item, show them a reward (another toy or a treat) by placing it in front of their nose, and say โ€œGiveโ€. When your dog opens their mouth to take the reward, repeat the โ€œGiveโ€ command, take the item, PRAISE!, and give them the reward.

Step 2b: If your dog willingly releases the item, the moment they open their mouth and release the item, PRAISE!, say, โ€œYes! Good Give,โ€ and continue to play.

Step 3: Repeat the steps 1 and 2 until your dog has willingly released the item three times in a row.

Note: On rare occasions, some puppies are determined to keep the object and simply refuse to โ€œGiveโ€ no matter what. In these situations, gently place your thumb on your dogโ€™s gums and begin to apply pressure while repeating โ€œGiveโ€ slowly, giving your puppy time to respond and release the item. If necessary, continue to increase the amount of pressure, but do not use your fingernail. This will become uncomfortable for your puppy, and they will release the item.

If your dog is stubborn, this may become a battle of wills. But it is important that you remain the parent and not give in to puppyโ€™s obstinate behavior. Be patient, but firm. Never rip the item out of your puppyโ€™s mouth or pull on the item. This will cause them to want to tug, and your dog will think you are playing.

THE "GET IT" Command

โ€œGet Itโ€ tells your puppy to pick up an item, often used during a game of fetch.

Teaching Method

Step 1: Pick up an item, such as a ball, rope, or stick. Instead of using an actual stick, which may contain bacteria or pathogens, use something like a Kong Pet Stick when training your dog to fetch. Show the item to your dog, enticing them, but not exciting them.

Step 2: As soon as your dog sees the item and expresses interest, throw your item at waist level about 15 feet in front of you. As you release it, say, โ€œFido, Get It!โ€

Step 3: When your dog reaches the item, say, โ€œThatโ€™s it, Get It!โ€

Step 4: Your dog will instinctively want to pick the item up, so mark the moment they do by saying, โ€œYES! Get It,โ€ with  a big smile on your face and a lot of excitement.

Note: When your dog comes back to you with the item in their mouth is the ideal time to teach the โ€œGiveโ€ command.

Step 5: Repeat steps 1 through 4, as well as steps from the โ€œGiveโ€ command. Make sure you continue to โ€œplayโ€ until your dog is retrieving the item and giving it to you successfully for three or more times consecutively.

Once you are confident that Fido fully understands โ€œGet itโ€ and โ€œGive,โ€ you can begin to throw the item farther and farther away. At this point, ECAD recommends adding the โ€œComeโ€ command to the sequence of commands. The sequence would sound like this, โ€œGet Itโ€ฆYES!...Comeโ€ฆYES!โ€ฆ.Giveโ€ฆYES!โ€ Always praise your dog once the sequence has been completed.

Helpful Tips:

  • Remember to establish and enforce the rules of fair play. No one wants to play with a bully.
  • Have fun with these commands. Playing fetch is a great opportunity for you and your dog to bond while burning off some energy and teaching manners.
  • Use your markers: โ€œThatโ€™s It,โ€ โ€œYes,โ€ and โ€œNo!โ€
  • You are the boss. Be patient, but firm when your dog is resisting giving you an item, because one day that item may just be your favorite pair of shoes or the TV remote.
Next weekโ€™s lesson

How to Teach Your Dog โ€œYesโ€ and โ€œNoโ€

Back to 20 Dog Commands You Need to Know

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All training tips in this series are from ECAD (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities), a non-profit organization dedicated to training service dogs for veterans with disabilities. Learn more about ECAD.

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