I’m a little “off” today. Didn’t get much sleep last night as Copper’s antibiotics are giving him the runs. So, between the pain the drops cause that make him hoot and holler a bit, and the frequent need to go out (or be cleaned up after), I only managed to catch a few hours of sleep on the couch. Pumpkin and probiotics are on the menu for him tonight.
In no way am I selecting my topics in order as to how I’d train them. I’m not picking in an a, b and c sort of fashion, just merely talking about how to accomplish topics as I’ve observed a need to understand or been inspired to write about them. We’re taking little increments of training and breaking them down so we can build back up to something amazing. Hope you’re hanging in there and still coming along for the ride!
Today, we’re going to talk about the importance of your dog’s name. Too often, we humans repeat and over-use our dog’s name so that it lacks little meaning to our pet. We use our dog’s name, give a command and get ignored. So we repeat our dog’s name over and over and over some more. While this is perfectly human, it communicates to our pet that that word, that name isn’t important and can be ignored. What we want our dogs to learn is that when we say their name, they should stop what they’re doing and pay attention to us for further instruction.
Like most everything else I’ve shared, this is also has a couple of steps. Expect it to take about a week for each step to really become solid for your dog. Once you’ve reached a 90% success rate regularly for a few training sessions, you can move forward to the next step.
This week we’re going to work on getting our pup to just acknowledge us when we say her name. We’re going to work in an area that has little distraction such as in a quiet spot in the house or back yard. Also, I’d like you to have Sweet Lil Sillyums on a loose leash. As always, we’ll be using high value treats.
While Sillyums is sniffing around and not paying attention to you, say her name. When she looks at you, click and treat for the reward. (Or, alternately, praise with a “Good!” and reward.) Practice this 15-20 times, rewarding after every acknowledgement of you. Do not repeat Silly’s name over and over. If she’s not acknowledging you, take up the leash and walk her a few steps away from whatever is interesting her. The object her is to set her up to succeed. And then try again.
*Now, this differs from “Watch Me” in that it’s a bit of a precursor to the Watch Me command. Watch Me is intended to keep your dog focusing on your face. This can help reactive dogs ignore (and desensitize over time!) to stimulus. The Name Game is about just teaching your dog to pay attention when their name is said and to eventually expect a following command. The Name Game is for your dog to say, “hey! They said my name! I get to work now! What’s next?”
Is Silly looking at you now when you say her name? Is she getting reliable about it? Good! We can move on to the next step! If not, maybe some more practice in a quieter, less distracting area or a new type of extra yummy treat might help.
This week I’d like you to do a little observing. I’d like you to notice how you say your dog’s name. Listen to the tone and infliction. Do you say it different in different circumstances? Does your dog pay more attention when you say it one way over another? Listen to how others in the family say Silly’s name. Does everyone in the family say it the same? Work together and see if you can come up with and establish a way that everyone will say Silly’s name in a clear, consistent manner. (Training family members is much more challenging than training your dog. If you manage to get everyone on the same page quickly and smoothly, let me know how you did it.)
How is Silly doing on acknowledging you when you say her name? Good? Good! Let’s up the ante! Practice with more and more distractions as Sillyum’s succeeds. Increase the increments slowly and repeat often at that level of distraction until Silly succeeds in acknowledging you 90% of the time. If you hit a distraction that’s maybe too much, take a step back and practice at the last level Silly succeeded at. Refresh your 90% rating there. Make sure it’s solid and then try again at the more difficult level. It’s always ok to take a step or two back and do a refresher to get successes. We want Silly to succeed and we want this to be positive and hold her attention.
Remember to only say your dog’s name once. Then it’s up to her to turn her head and look at you. Remember to not repeat your dog’s name. This takes a lot of willpower, but we really want Silly’s name to mean something. Also, don’t wait too long to treat and praise! Even a delay of a few seconds can teach your dog it’s not worth the reward to pay attention.
As Sillyums becomes proficient with The Name Game, you can incorporate it into your regular commands such as, “Silly, Watch Me!” or “Silly, sit!”. Success with your dog should increase by leaps and bounds just by playing The Name Game and making sure that your dog knows what her name means.