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How To Teach A Dog Its Name

As a new dog owner, teaching your dog its name is extremely important.

You will be using your dog’s name over the course of its life, so teaching name recognition is setting the foundation for your life with your dog.  However, you should only use your dog’s name in one particular way and everyone in the household should use their name the same way.

You don’t want your dog to hear its name and be confused about what is going to happen next. You don’t want your dog to think…. Did I make a mistake and am going to be scolded? Or should you dog be happy cause something good is about to happen?

Here’s the right way to teach your dog its name without confusion.

The right way to use your dog’s name

  • Stop what you are doing and give me your attention!

There is only one thing you want your dog to associate its name with, and that is to pay attention to you no matter what they are doing at the moment.

Common mistakes when using your dog’s name

  1. You use it as a correction!

Your dog should not associate your dog’s name with punishment. When your dog does something it wasn’t supposed to do, simply correct that bad behavior with “no!”, “stop!”, or “leave it”.

  1. You use it for different commands!

The name should be used only to get your dog’s attention. If you want to use it with a command, for example you want to call your dog to come while he’s playing in the park, first call it by its name then wait for it to respond. Only then tell your dog to come.

This will prevent your dog from associating its name with the command “Come”.

  1. Using your dog’s name too often!

Using your dog’s name too often (especially when not necessary), teaches your dog that every time you call it isn’t important.  Accordingly, you dog may start ignoring you when you call its name.

Step by step instructions for teaching your dog its name

You dog will learn its name naturally with time, but with a little effort you can teach it to associate it with the right reasons.

Do not start with training when your dog is tired, over excited or very distracted.

  • Step 1: Start with saying your dog’s name with a happy but calm voice.

Remember that your dog still does not know its name, so your dog may not respond the first time you say it. If that happens simply clap with your hands or make a kissing noise to get it to pay attention to you.

  • Step 2: The moment your dog gives you attention, mark its behavior with a reward. The reward could be a treat, praise (“Good boy or girl!” or “Yes!”) or a pat on the head.


  • Step 3: Now let your dog go on with what it was doing before.


  • Step 4: After a couple of minutes, when you dog isn’t paying attention to you, repeat the first and the second step.

After a few days, your puppy should already associate its name with good things and pay attention as soon as it hears it.

  • Step 5: Repetition is key! Repeat the 4th step and start adding distance.


  • Step 6: After a couple of days add distractions. Make someone in your family or a friend play with your German Shepherd and then call its name. It should stop whatever it is doing and respond to its name by looking at you. The second it does that, reward it!


  • Step 7: When you are confident that your dog listens to you and pays attention as soon as you say its name, try another location, like the yard, your friend’s house, or the park.

This may seem like a lot of work only to teach a dog its name, but these training sessions should not last more than 10 minutes each time.  With patience and consistency, you will be surprised how quickly your dog will learn its name.

Teaching a dog its name is important to be able get their attention in any situation, especially, god forbid, in an emergency situation.  Additionally, this training will establish the foundation for teaching your dog the first 4 basic commands.

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