Whether it’s a puppy or an adult dog there’s one common thing that I teach them first. This is pretty much the most important foundation skill. And now that we’ve had all this build up:
I teach them their name and that looking at me when I ask them makes good things happen. I even teach this when I have a foster dog who already “knows” their name.
If a dog can’t look at you when you need them to then you’re not going to get anything else from them. It has the added bonus of creating a positive association with me and kind of kicks off the beginning of a recall.
You can do this using your dog’s food, treats or toys. Anything works as long as your dog wants it. Motivation changes from dog to dog so don’t assume they all want the same thing.
I start off working in a quiet space inside my house. Just my newbie and me. I call the dog’s name once. If the dog looks at me on their own great – I say “Yes” and reward with said treat, kibble or toy. If the dog doesn’t look then I lure up from their nose to my eyes. As soon as they are looking up near my eyes I say “Yes” and reward.
Now some people think – this is silly the dog is just looking at that treat near your eyes. Well that’s where we start. I do this around 5 times and then I stop luring. I wait for the dog to select my face. You’ll be amazed how quickly they pick this up!
I practice this several times a day for around 5 minutes each time. As the dog gets better at it I increase the distractions and change up the environment. We will practice it all around the house, yard and on walks. Sometimes when there’s dogs or people near too.
Before long you have a dog that is extremely responsive to their name.
As you can see in this photo Marco is focused 100% on me while my mentor and coach was giving me instructions in our Companion Dog Obedience class when he was still under 1 year old. Name attention keeps your dog out of trouble and ready to do what you ask of them next be it – sit, down, stay or come. Marco’s reward in this photo is his ball. He will do anything for his ball and it’s a great motivator.