Puppy School Lesson One
Getting your puppy's attention
Eventually, many people resort to words like biscuit to get attention, a word, said in an excited tone will get a response, so why not the dogs own name. The truth is, all too often, nobody has ever taken the time to really teach their dog that its name has any importance, but words like biscuit are very important to them. Puppies respond to almost anything said in a friendly tone, so it is easy to assume that they have recognised the name when it is jumbled up with a whole load of other words. Time spent now on teaching your puppy their name, and practicing attracting their attention is an ideal base for future training.
The only way your puppy will ever learn to respond to your commands is if you can first attract their attention and encourage them to home in on you. A young puppy will generally look at you and prick their ears up when you speak to them.
Itís important that youíre able to keep this attention in order to progress with training. Once your puppy really knows their name, attracting their attention is easy. Itís amazing how many adult dogs donít actually know their name. Their owners may not agree, but ask them to call their dog when not already paying attention to them and see if they respond. Ask yourself how many times their owner has to call their dog's name before they are acknowledged and also think how loud they end up shouting it.
Teaching your puppy their name
Several times a day, take a few minutes to reinforce your puppyís name. Arm yourself with some treats and toys and put your pup on their lead. The lead is helpful to give you some gentle control over movement, should they decide that something else is more interesting, and you can stop them from wandering off without having to give chase, remember youíre in charge. Use your treats and toys to attract attention, call their name, and reward them for looking at you. Next hold the treat up to your face so your pup has to look up at you to respond to you calling their name. Repeat this several times and your pup will soon start to learn, when they looks up at you, they get rewarded. At the same time as you reward them with a food treat, also use verbal praise, and tell your pup they are good. As you progress, the sound of your voice and praise will be the reward, and the occasional treat merely a bonus.
Now repeat the exercise using a toy to attract your pupís attention. Call pupís name and squeak or tap the toy on the floor. Hold the toy up to your face, call the pupís name, and then throw the toy gently (remember, they are on the lead so don't throw the toy too far). Allow the pup to chase the toy, and gently guide them back to you to continue the game. Experiment with different toys, treats and tones of voice to learn what works best for your pup. Always reward them when they respond to their name and theyíll come to know that, that specific sound really is their own name.
Once you can be confident of getting your puppyís attention and holding it for a few moments at a time, you will be able to start incorporating recalls and positions into your future training sessions.