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Puppy Training Lesson 1 – Teach A Puppy His Name
Even if your new puppy already knows his name, please do not skip this lesson. It is important that you get a feel for how puppy training works, and are able to see how your puppy responds before moving on! The first step in training is to teach a puppy his name.
The first thing we all teach our new puppies, before we even realize we’re doing any training, is that when we make a certain specific sound, we want their undivided attention. And this sound is their own name.
That’s all it is, and that’s all it should be used for.
Many new puppy owners tend to think of their puppy’s name as much more than that. They often use it as a catch-all command with multiple definitions that will vary depending on what they want their puppy to do at any particular moment. For example: “Max!”… meaning Come here, or Max!”… meaning Stop that!”); “Max!”… meaning Get down!”); “Max!”… meaning Stop barking!”); “Max!”… meaning Don’t eat that cat poop! You see what I mean?
Your new puppy may be the smartest puppy in the world, but he is certainly not a mind reader.
You should not use your puppy’s name any differently than you would use a child’s name. For example, if you call a child’s name, he may acknowledge that he hears you (ha, ha, if you’re lucky), but his usual response will be to answer back, “What?” He possibly won’t even look up from his video game or whatever else he is doing whenever you call out his name.
You will need to follow up with some instruction and tell him what you want. For example… “Bobby! Stop playing games and get your homework done.” Then he may or may not do as you request, depending on how well he’s been trained – LOL.
The point is, plan to use your puppy’s name in the same way, and this way is only to get his attention. Then you should use other sounds which will be the commands you are going to teach your puppy, along with actions to tell or show him exactly what you want him to do.
Even after your puppy learns his name, he may continue doing whatever he was doing when he hears you use it. Never get upset or impatient if he ignores you, especially in the early days. And make sure you do not keep repeating his name, as in “Max… Max!… MAX!!!” Because by doing this, you will only teach your puppy to ignore you until he hears his name repeated over and over.
So let’s get on with your first puppy training lesson.
Lesson 1: Teach A Puppy His Name
Read this lesson over thoroughly first, and then practice it with your new puppy.
- First, load up your pocket (or a bag or pouch) with 20 or so treats. You can buy healthy treats here
- Take your puppy to an area where there won’t be a lot of distractions.
- Wait for your puppy to look at something other than you, then say his name (once!).
- When puppy looks at you, immediately give him a treat and say “Good!” Or whatever you’ve chosen as the primary re-inforcer, phrase or clicker (see Clicker Training for Dogs). We’re going to just use “Good!” in our puppy training examples.
- Now move a few steps to another location and again wait for your puppy to be looking away from you.
- Say your puppy’s name again and reward him immediately again with a treat and praise when he looks at you.
- Repeat this process five times. If your puppy dog was particularly distracted before responding to his name, give him extra praise and treats.
If your puppy doesn’t do what you want
If you say puppy’s name and he doesn’t look at you, he may just be too distracted. Move him a few steps to a different location and try again. Say his name. Use an upbeat and enthusiastic tone of voice. Give him an immediate reward if he looks at you.
If your puppy still doesn’t respond to his name, clap your hands, whistle or make some other attention grabbing noise. When he looks, say his name again and immediately give him a reward. Do this as a last resort. You want your puppy to learn to respond to his name, not the other sounds.
Note: If your puppy does not show any response to those attention-getting sounds, please have his hearing checked. Seriously. Some breeds, such as Dalmatians, are prone to hearing problems. A puppy owner who thinks the puppy is too dumb to learn is sometimes surprised to learn the dog is actually deaf!
Another tactic: Put the treat in your hand and let your puppy sniff your closed fist so he’ll know it’s there. Pull your hand away and wait until your puppy looks away from you. Say his name and immediately reward his response. If your puppy continues to ignore his name after several attempts, try moving to a less distracting location. Distractions include smells, not just sights and sounds. Keep trying, be patient, and remember not to repeat puppy’s name. Give immediate rewards when he responds.
This Week’s Puppy Training Homework: Practice this lesson!
During this week, you will be training yourself as well as your puppy. The important lesson for you is to learn to say your puppy’s name once, and once only. This can be quite difficult for most people. We rely on verbal communication and puppies don’t. So you will have to train yourself not to do what probably comes naturally to you, i.e. repeating yourself until you get a response.
Practice this lesson several times each day during the week. Vary the time of day and location (inside and outside). Do not, however, move to areas with greater distractions to challenge your puppy with higher degrees of difficulty, even if he is a fast learner. This Puppy Training System works best when you build on a strong foundation of success and progress slowly, one step at a time. Do five repetitions during each lesson. Concentrate on saying your puppy’s name only once.
And remember, not to use your puppy’s name as a catch-all command with many definitions. As your puppy training progresses, you’ll learn that each desired action will have it’s own separate command, and it will not be your puppy’s name.
In Addition to Practicing This Lesson…
- Learn the type of reward that is the best motivator for your own puppy. Food treats, such as small pieces of cooked chicken, can be kept fresh by placing them in seal-able plastic bags and storing them in the refrigerator.
- Focus on positive reinforcement. You’ll be teaching your puppy that listening to you and learning are fun. Your goal is to have a happy student, eager for each lesson. Use treats your puppy loves most, and give them immediately as instant re-inforcers.
- Remember to use a combination of primary (treats) and secondary (praise or clicker) re-inforcers together. When your puppy responds correctly, immediately give the treat and say “Good!” Always use the same word or phrase for his praise.
- Have fun playing with your new puppy! Do not focus all your time together on training him. Make sure to spend lots of quality time just enjoying each others company.
Once you have mastered this lesson, it’s is time to move on to puppy training lesson No 2:
Puppy Training Lesson 2: Teach a Puppy To Sit