How To Teach Your Puppy His Name

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I’m assuming you already named your puppy. If not check out the article I wrote about how I named my dogs: Naming Your Dog.

If you’ve already named your puppy then it’s time to learn how to teach your puppy his name.

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?

How to teach your puppy his name
How to teach your puppy his name

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.

How To Teach Your Puppy His Name

Puppy Charlie hears his name.
Did someone same Charlie?

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 than done.

Golden puppy, Bear learning his name.
Golden puppy, Bear learning his name.

My Experiences With Stetson And Linus

A few pitfalls I can warn you about are:

Not 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 names 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 dog’s name with the STAY command is that the puppy’s name should be synonymous with the COME command.

When I say my puppy’s name he 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 you?

Let’s 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 you’re calling him by several different names.

I tried hard with Linus, but my sister, my roommate, 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.

Teaching our puppy his name
Here comes Charlie! Teaching this puppy his name.

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 may be about 10 feet).
  2. Give him about 5 feet to wander 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.

QUICK TIP: This might be the only time you’ll catch me recommending using a flexi-leash. When working on recalls we will use either a 10-30 foot long line or sometimes we’ll use a flexi-leash. We ONLY use our flexi-leash when training our pups.

***Whenever you’re trying to get your puppy’s attention you have to be the most exciting thing in the world…more exciting than 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?

Now that your puppy knows his name you might try teaching him something more advanced like “Go To Your Bed”

How do you teach your puppy to come when calling his name. Many years ago when we were raising Stetson to be a Guide Dog we learned some simple tricks to easily teach our puppy his name. One of our favorite games to play with our puppy is the “name game” which will quickly teach your pup his name. #puppysname #puppyname #puppynamegame #puppycome #teachpuppyname
How do you teach your puppy to come when calling his name?

Top Picks For Our Puppies

    We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
    We Like: Mighty Paw Naturals Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
    We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats - We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
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Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.

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  1. I just got a 6 week old yellow lab puppy. He sleeps a lot! He takes 2-3 hour naps frequently and I keep reading that they need to potty about every hour. Should I wake him up and take him out or just wait until he wakes up to be taken out?

  2. I’ve made the mistake of using my dog Missy’s name when trying to call her to come back inside when something such as squirrel or blowing leaves are fascinating her…so now I use a very enthusiastic “puppy!!” when calling her instead of her name, and it works beautifully. Usually in combination with shaking a bag of treats 😉

    1. We do the same thing with our puppies from time to time. Sometimes it’s just really difficult to catch yourself. I’ve caught myself many times saying my dogs names in a not so happy tone because they did something wrong.

  3. Hi there! My fiance and I just got an 8 week old golden retriever puppy about 6 days ago. She is doing pretty well but find trouble focusing on walks as she just wants to chew leaves, the leash, or the grass. I’ve heard that excessive chewing is a retriever thing so I’m hoping that she will just grow out of this behavior. Any tips for getting her to walk better? It will definitely help in burning off more of that retriever energy.

    P.S. I’ve tried getting her attention with treats and trying to run/walk faster with very little success

    1. Congratulations on your new puppy! We have a 12 week old Golden Retriever puppy at our house that we’re raising as a service dog so I feel your pain. One thing you want to try and do is find something more interesting then all the things (leaves, leash, grass) distracting your puppy and use that to regain her focus. Regarding the leash biting you can work on that by spraying the end of your leash with bitter apple spray. Most puppies don’t like the taste and will eventually stop chewing on the leash. Good luck with your puppy.

  4. I am going to be getting a golden retriever puppy in 4 weeks. He is only 4 weeks old right now. I already have a 1 year old golden now. My question is where would it be best to train the puppy. My 1 yr old is rather hyper at times and I’m afraid if I try to do any training where she is at, it is going to be too much of a distraction for the puppy. Plus I don’t want him to learn any of her bad habits! Like ignoring me sometimes when she gets her bullheaded hat on! lol Should I do his training in a separate room?? I want him to be a much better behaved dog than what my female is.. Also, I plan to use him for breeding so he will not be being neutered for a few years. In your opinion, Can a non-neutered golden be calm enough and well trained enough to become a therapy dog?? I also read that not neutering a male dog for at least a few years is healthier for them.
    Thanks and I would love to hear your advise and opinions. I really love this site and I have learned a lot ! 🙂

    1. Early congratulations on your new Golden Retriever puppy! Those little fluff balls are adorable. I totally get the idea that your other dog will be too distracting for your puppy to concentrate. When we first started working with Archer we either trained in a separate room or outside to give him fewer distractions. However, as he got older we worked on training him in many different locations including the park, on walks, different rooms in the house, at grocery stores, etc. Eventually your puppy will have to get used to distraction especially if you plan on him being a therapy dog. Our friends have an intact male dog that is used in the guide dog breeding program. He is also a therapy dog. We know of several other intact dogs that volunteer as therapy dog teams. Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your training!

  5. I agree with your view on crate Vs pads! Allowing a puppy to wee inside just confuses them and dramatically slows down the process in my experience. It’s all

  6. I have a 32 days old dalmatian. He doesn’t respond to any kind of sounds when he Roaming about… But to make sure he isn’t deaf we make sounds when he asleep and he suddenly wakes up… But he never responds when he is awake.. Why is he like this?

    1. Congratulations on your new puppy! Some things we’ve had success using are squeaky toys, clickers, whistling, clapping, snapping and it sounds kind of funny, but kissing noises with your lips. Also, we sometimes pair these things with treats. I usually don’t get a puppy until he’s about 8 weeks old (56 days) so it could also have something to do with his young age. If you haven’t had a chance you might also take him in for a vet check. Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your training!

  7. 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?

    1. 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!

  8. Hi,

    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

  9. 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?

    1. 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!

  10. 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.

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