Teaching Dog Names: 7 Steps Explained By a Professional

Whether dogs actually know that word is their name remains a mystery. However, we know that dogs understand when they are meant.

Names are extremely strong bonds, and not just for people. Most dogs and people carry their name with them for life.

Teaching your dog his name is primarily important in order to be able to address him and draw his attention to you.

Also, this name creates a sense of belonging in the dog. Belonging to the family is especially important for dogs.

We have created a step-by-step guide that will take you and your dog by the hand and paw.

If you are also wondering:

Can you rename a dog?

How long does it take for a dog to respond to its name?

Then read this article.

In a nutshell: teaching puppies names – this is how it works

Most puppies you buy from the breeder already know their names. If that’s not the case, it’s not the end of the world.

Here you will find a short version of how you can teach your puppy, but also an adult dog, its name.

Pick a name. We just use “Collin” here.
Address your dog “Collin.”
As soon as your dog looks at you with interest, you reward him.
Keep repeating this until he understands that “Collin” means look, this is important to you.
Once that’s in place, you can connect “Collin” directly to “Here.”

Teaching your dog its name – you still have to keep that in mind

Although the instructions are fairly simple, there are a few things that you or other family members could do wrong.

Not enough reward

Tell children in particular how the exercise works and first of all only you do this exercise.

Your dog must be rewarded with absolute consistency every time he responds.

On the other hand, if your dog is called too many times without getting anything in return, he will dismiss the command as “useless” and stop responding.

Dog doesn’t listen to its name

Overall there are three reasons for this:

  • Your dog is too distracted.
  • Your dog is being addressed incorrectly.
  • Your dog doesn’t get a reward.

In the first case, you need to practice in a much quieter environment. Start exercising at home.

Second, teach other family members how to pronounce the name correctly. Collin is a great example of this.

I pronounce my dog, who is otherwise called Collin, like this: “Colin”. My Spanish friend pronounces it “Cojin” because the double L sounds like a J in Spanish.

Of course, Collin doesn’t react reliably this way – so it’s important that you explain how you want your dog’s name to be pronounced.

And last but not least: reward as much as you can!

You don’t have to turn your dog into a little treat Moby Dick for that. You can also just play with him or get mad when he responds to his name.

Dominance distribution

Sometimes dogs just like to test how serious you actually mean it.

Especially naturally dominant dogs sometimes do not react on purpose.

Then, make sure to give your dog more explicit praise when he responds.

Also, make sure you have the upper hand. You can practice this by going for a walk, among other things.

Little bonus: teach the dog names of people

You can theoretically teach your dog the name of his cuddly toys, what your mother’s name is, what the neighbor’s name is, …

For this you proceed as follows:

Hold what you want to name in front of your dog.
As soon as he nudges the stuffed animal or the human, you say the name and reward him.
Later you can say something like “Find Mama!” saying. Your dog will then learn that “Mama!” should be nudged and go on a search.

How long will it take…

…until your dog will understand his own name or recognize a new name as his own.

Since every dog learns at a different rate, the question of how long it takes can only be answered vaguely.

It usually doesn’t take that long for your dog to respond to his name. Calculate that you will need about 5 training sessions of 10-15 minutes each.

Step-by-step guide: Teaching the dog its name

Before we start, you should know what tools you can use for the step-by-step instructions.

Utensils needed

You will definitely need treats or toys.

Anything that makes friends with your dog and is considered a reward may be used.

The instruction

You choose a name.
Wait until your dog isn’t looking at you.
Call him by his name.
If he responds, give him a treat or other reward.
Repeat this until your dog responds immediately.
If that works well, let him come to you right after the name.

This exercise also works if your dog already had a different name. Just practice this until you get the new name.


Reward your dog only when he responds with interest. Avoid rewarding him if only his left ear twitches.


Teaching names is not that difficult!

After a few times, your dog may even come to you on its own.

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