How To Teach Your Puppy His Name

I’m assuming you already named your puppy. If not check out the article I wrote about how I named my dogs: Lessons From Marley & Me Part 2 – Naming Your Dog.

One of the most important things you can teach your dog is his name. It can save his life…literally. How you might ask? Well what if your dog was chasing a ball into the street? What if a car was coming? If your dog knows the meaning of his name he will respond and come to you when called even while in the middle of playing.

Of course, as I mentioned in my last article, How To Handle Your Puppy’s First Night At Home, training your puppy will require consistency and patience.

Teaching The Puppy His Name

From the Guide Dogs of America Handbook:

Teaching your puppy its name is important.

  1. Use it every time you talk to him and with every command (except NO and STAY) .
  2. Never associate the dog’s name with something negative.
  3. Never scold the puppy after he comes to you, even if it has taken a while to respond.
  4. Please do not change the puppy’s name or call him by a nickname.

That’s it! Short and simple. However it is much easier said then done.

My Experiences With Stetson And Linus

A few pitfalls I can warn you about are:

Puppy RunningNot using the puppy’s name with NO and STAY – This is difficult to do when you try to use their name with every other command. Try to be consistent. I still will occasionally use Linus and Stetson’s name with the NO or STAY command. Also, you might be wondering why can’t we use our puppy’s name with the STAY command? The main reason we don’t associate our dogs name with the STAY command is because the puppy’s name should be synonymous with the COME command. When I say my puppy’s name they should COME to me. That is quite the contradiction from STAY.

It is also very difficult to avoid using your dog’s name with something negative. My biggest problem is when Linus or Stetson does something wrong I’ll say their name in a very negative voice. Sometimes I catch myself…sometimes I don’t.

Scolding your puppy when he comes to you…another bad habit that can be difficult to break. Why wouldn’t you want to scold your puppy after he comes to your? Lets say he just chewed up your new shoes and you say “Stetson Come” He comes to you as you commanded (made the correct choice). Then you scold him! Do you think he’s going to come to you next time? No! You should praise him when he comes to you. The only time you should scold your puppy is when you catch him in the act of doing something wrong.

Not changing your name or calling your dog by a nickname is more of a Guide Dog thing, but is also good for a young puppy. It can be confusing for a young puppy if your calling him by several different names. I tried hard with Linus, but my sister, my roomate, and my ex-girlfriend each had a nickname for him. I constantly told them not to use nicknames. Here are a few they used: Linie, Linikins, Linoceros, and Puppy Chow. I’ve been very strict with Stetson and people are usually more understanding since he’s training to be a guide dog.

The Name Game

The first game we always play at our Guide Dog training class is the Name Game. How does it work?

  1. Take your dog to the park and keep him on leash (it works a little better if you have a longer leash maybe about 10 feet).
  2. Give him about 5 feet to wonder away.
  3. When he’s not looking call his name with an excited voice and make sure he comes to you (if he doesn’t come reel him in with his leash).
  4. When he gets to you give him tons of praise!
  5. Repeat the exercise over and over again until your puppy is consistently returning to you when you call his name.

***Whenever you’re trying to get your puppy’s attention you have to be the most exciting thing in the world…more exciting then the birds, smells, other dogs, joggers…you get the picture…

Try playing the Name Game with your puppy. Be consistent and patient. Stick to the rules outlined above and your puppy will soon be consistently coming to you when you say his name.

Have you played the Name Game before? Does your puppy know his name? Do you have any other suggestions for reinforcing a puppy’s name?  Check out other articles on how to train a puppy.


  1. Liana says

    Also how can we get our residential cat used to Sasha? Our cat Freddy hisses at her and gets ready to scratch when Sasha sniffs at her….

    • says

      Unfortunately, I’m not a cat trainer, but in my experience cats either like my dogs or they do not. I’ve never worked to try and change a cat’s behavior.

      • Makayla pace says

        What u do is u just have to let them see each other together both being loved on maybe ur cat thinks u love ur puppy more than her now maybe she is jealous. Im just a kid but thats what happened with my cat and my aunt who is a bet and helps train cats she told me do that and it worked

  2. hannah says

    Hi, I just got a Husky/Beagle mix and named him Pippin. He’s seven weeks old now. When is a good time to start training him with the common commands; sit, stay, come, leave it, lay down, etc.? Is he too young to start training yet?

    • Liana says

      Pippins sounds adorable!! It’s never too early to start training. Puppies along with any kind of baby are constantly learning. Right about now your puppy would be learning all sorts of things from his mother and litter mates. Things like biting too hard and playing. Because you bought Pippins you have taken the responsibility of being his mom, so you need to teach him everything soon. I would start with sit, come, stay and down in that order. I deem those ‘tricks’ the most important. Once your puppy has successfully learnt those tricks properly and can do them even when they’re distracted, you can teach him frills. I call the fancier tricks like roll over, paw, and play dead frills because they aren’t essential to keep your puppy safe crossing a street or chasing a squirrel, etc. The recommended time to purchase a puppy is 6-8 weeks because that is when puppies are most perceptible to learning new skills. Teach your puppy the tricks I suggested. The best time to do training is before a meal and after a walk. That way the puppy is hungry, but calm from his walk and more likely to learn. Make sure you are always happy when training and keep the sessions short. 15 minutes is usually good. Good luck with Pippins!!

  3. Katie says

    Hi my mother adopted a 3 month old puppy from a rescue centre about a week ago,
    she was attacked by a staff when she was younger at her old home so my parents have been letting her get away with everything
    including going toilet indoors and play biting,
    I’ve read up that she’s teething so ive been telling her no when she bites and replacing who-evers’ hand it is with a chew toy and I’ve been working on house-training her but it’s as if as soon as I teach her something, my parents fuss over her and then she’ll know she can get away with it so she’ll do it anyway.
    any suggestions?

    • says

      Hi Katie,

      You really have to get everyone in the house on the same page or you’re going to have a very difficult time training your puppy (as you’ve already realized). Maybe if you tried enrolling the puppy in a puppy kindergarten class and have the whole family attend so you can learn together how to properly train a puppy.

      Good luck with your training!

  4. rio says

    Help my new dog is so scared of everyone and I call his name(RIO!) and he never come s what should I do. How do I teach him I know all your stuff is great but I try it and it never worked

    • says

      It’s difficult to tell without actually seeing your puppy’s reaction. You should try looking into getting a professional dog trainer to do an in-home visit so he/she can see first hand your puppy’s behavior.

      Good luck with your training!

  5. Eddy says

    I have a Rottweiler puppy, she is 10 weeks old and I have had her for almost two weeks. I have done these tricks and she seems to respond some time while other times she doesn’t. It seems to me more that she knows her name but is just ignoring me to be stubborn. What do you think? What should I do?

    • says

      10 weeks is still very young for a puppy to be responsive every time. When I work with my puppies I only use their name when I’m 100% sure they will return to me. I do this by using a long line when working on their training. By the way, every time your puppy does not come to you when you use their name they are learning that they do not have to come when they hear their name. Make sure they respond 100% of the time when they are young pups. Good luck with your training!

  6. April says

    We just got a 10 week old Staffy x Kelpie and shes not potty trained yet. We’ve been taking her outside to go to the toilet and she stays in my bathroom with her food and a potty pad.
    Do you have any good tips on how to potty train her well?
    Yesterday she got out of the bathroom, poo’d on her blanket and wee all over my bed.
    We don’t know what to do.
    Please help 😀
    Thank you!

  7. Veronica says

    I just adopted a 8 week old boxer puppy. I’ve tried some of these methods and they seemed to work sometimes but other times she gets very distracted and just wants to play and jump. How do i get her to focus on me so she can learn her name?

    • says

      Hi Veronica,

      Congratulations on your new puppy! One thing we always do with our pup’s is make sure they come to us every time we use their name. At a very young age they don’t always understand their name so we will usually keep them on a long line make sure they always come by giving a little tug if they are getting too distracted.

      If you’re using your pup’s name and she does not come to you then she has just learned she does not have to come when you call her name (that’s why we use a long line). The more consistent you are with making sure she comes every time the quicker she’ll understand what she’s supposed to do when you say her name.

      Good luck with your training!

  8. Robin says

    Hi Colby,

    I’m hoping you may have some advice for me. I recently purchased a 15 wk old German Shepherd puppy 4 days ago and although we are calling her by name and rewarding with treats or feels as though she is either ignoring me or is deaf. She is the 3rd Shepherd we’ve owned and we also have a Havanese. They all learned their names within 2 days. I don’t want to be paranoid but I’m worried about this one. Lol would love to hear your thoughts. I do plan on trying your methods as well and just ordered some clickers online to try.

    Thanks so much!

    • says

      Hi Robin,

      Congratulations on your new puppy! If you think she’s having some hearing problems you might have her checked out by your local vet.

      When I work with my puppies I make sure they come to me every time I call their name by using a long line. Remember, anytime your puppy does not come when you say their name they are learning that they do not have to come when called.

      Stay consistent, persistent, and patient and I’m sure she’ll pick up on her name very soon just like your other puppies.

      Good luck with your training!

  9. Breanna says

    I just adopted a 6 week old pittweiler puppy named Wren. She is a very sweet puppy but she is constantly chewing up my furniture. I’ve tried scolding her but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Please help!

    • says

      Hi Breanna,

      Congratulations on your new puppy! A couple things you might try for your puppy who likes to chew furniture are:

      1. Bitter Apple Spray – You should probably check to make sure it doesn’t stain your couch first. We spray a little on things we don’t want our pups to chew like furniture, shoes, leashes, etc. Most puppies don’t like the taste and after chewing on items with Bitter Apple Spray applied the puppies usually start to figure out that it’s not a good idea to chew on these objects.
      2. Redirect her chewing. When you see her start chewing on inappropriate objects like your furniture grab one of her favorite chew toys and redirect her chewing away from the furniture and to the toy.

      Hopefully one of those ideas helps with your puppy’s chewing. Good luck with your training!


  10. Kira says

    Hi Colby,
    I am so grateful to have come across your website. We are getting our puppy in two days. She is a 9 week old Aussie Shepherd mix. I am a pet person so I am beyond excited. My husband on the other hand, keeps finding reasons that this will be a miserable thing. We have a 2 year old and are used to being consistent. My husband keeps saying that he feels like getting a puppy is like putting him on lock down. He keeps asking if the puppy is always supposed to be in the crate when we leave for a few hours and what we are supposed to do when we aren’t home. Do you have any advice for that? Also, It’s going to be a long winter and we aren’t sure if we are supposed to take her outside in the freezing cold or do something inside?

    If you have the time to write back, you would be a life saver.

    • says

      Hi Kira!

      Congratulations on your new puppy! You’ve probably had her for a few days now. Linus is an Aussie Shepherd mix and he’s a wonderful dog! The first few days are definitely some of the most difficult so hopefully everything is going smoothly for you and your husband. I’m not sure if you had a chance to read this article, but hopefully it helps with the crate training:

      Different people will do different things with their puppy. When we’re raising and training guide and service dog puppies…yes, we do keep them in the crate whenever we are not home. However, my own personal dogs (they are older) just stay in the house when we’re gone. Although all my pups have been crate trained.

      My advice would be if you have a younger puppy like yours then I would keep them in the crate when you are gone, but not more than 2-3 hours during the day. An alternative is if you have a puppy safe room or an X-pen you can confine your puppy to while you are gone.

      I live in California so I don’t have much experience with freezing cold winters. However, when the day I picked up Linus from the shelter it rained for two weeks straight. I (and Linus) didn’t want to go outside, but we still went ahead and took him out to potty. You might check with your vet to make sure it’s safe to take your pup outside during those freezing months.

      Good luck with your training!


  11. Joi Martin says

    Hello, I received a yorkie for Christmas and I named him Madden. The problem I have already is that Madden is biting my hand as if it’s a chew toy every time I go to grab him. I have read that this is normal because he plays with his litter siblings in this manner. Is this normal? If not what can I do to break this behavior? I would definitely not want him to become an adult dog with this same issue.

  12. Kristi says

    I’m getting a puppy on Sunday. He will be about 6 weeks. The one giving him to me has named him Cain. I dont really like that name. She shouldn’t haved named him knowing she was giving him away. But oh well. I was wondering if I could change his name since he is so little or is it to late?

    • says

      Sorry for the late response. Yes, you can change his name and your puppy will adapt. You can even change the name of an adult dog and they will learn it. Good luck with your training!

  13. Melissa B says


    I name my dog Juno but now that I read this article I am second guessing myself. Do you think if will be hard for him to distinguish No since its in his name. Hopefully that makes sense.

    Thank you

  14. says

    I just got a 6 month old toy poodle well I adopted him and they named him blacky well I don’t like that name I don’t think it fits. I’m wanting to change his name any ideas on how to go about that?

    • says

      Congratulations on your new puppy! It shouldn’t be an issue changing his name. Try using the methods mentioned in this blog posts and he should start responding to his new name fairly quickly. Good luck with your training!

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