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, “Now what?!?”

Lucky for you, four-legged children are ECAD’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, “kissy” 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, “What should we communicate?”

The Dog’s Name

When you say the dog’s name, you are telling the dog to pay attention—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 dog’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 don’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 “noise” to your pet.  

It is critical that the pup’s name is ALWAYS positive. Don’t use their name to scold. Indicators are used for that, which will be covered in the next lesson.


Practice the “Dog’s Name” command, and play with cues, both targeting and commands, to have fun with your puppy.  

Next week’s lesson

How to Teach Your Dog “Yes” and “No”

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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