Dog Training – The Name Game

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OBJECTIVE: This behavior has three purposes.

  1. To teach your dog to immediately orient towards you upon hearing you say their name once, and
  2. for you to learn the importance of only using the dog’s name once, and
  3. for your dog to learn that responding to their name will be rewarded.

Every time you repeat your dog’s name, or a cue for a behavior like “Sit,” your dog is learning what you are attempting to communicate is not relevant. They may even be learning that they are only to respond when you use the cue more than one time. They could also learn to tune you out. After all, how do we react to nagging?

You may practice this behavior for a set period, a couple of minutes, or do it randomly throughout the day or while you are watching TV at night. You will need to wait for the dog to become mildly distracted to practice this behavior. By mildly distracted, I mean the dog is not looking at you. Do not try this behavior if the dog is intently focused on something else like watching a squirrel through the window or chewing on a bully stick.

PREREQUISITE(S): You must have exposed the dog to the clicker so that they understand a “click” marks the desired behavior and will result in a food reward.

Have your clicker in your hand and treats readily available.

Read all of these instructions before practicing.


With you and your dog in the same room, wait for your dog to orient away from you. The instant they do so, say their name ONCE, wait and then click at the precise moment they look towards you (they do NOT need to make eye contact, sit, or approach you at this point), and then offer them a treat immediately in front of you.

Disengage with the dog and wait for them to orient away from you before repeating.

If you have someone else with you, they can be a mild distraction for the dog. If you live alone, wait until the dog disengages and then immediately repeat. If you wish to do this while you are watching TV, you might want to practice the behavior every time there is a commercial.

Practice the Name Game at least twice a day, ten repetitions each time. As your dog responds faster and more reliably, start to change variables one at a time. For example, if the dog is immediately looking at you upon hearing their name when you are standing in the kitchen, start to practice in a different room. Practice with you standing in the living room. Once the dog is responding with you standing in at least three places in your home, practice in each of those rooms with you sitting in a chair. You can then repeat teaching the behavior in those three rooms with you sitting on the floor. When your dog is reliably responding to their name when you say their name once, in every room of your home, it is time to start training outdoors in your yard. Recognize that this will be more difficult as the outside is much more distracting.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( )

What’s In A Name – The importance of choosing and using your dog’s name wisely – coming Soon!

Dog Training – What Is Clicker Training? –

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©9JUN19, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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