It's important to remember that something as simple as your dog's name, is one of the most important skills you need to teach your dog. It's also one of the things people don't pay much attention to, assuming the dog understands it from the get go.

Teaching your dog his name is no different than teaching any other word you want your dog to respond to. Because of that, it’s essential to treat it as you would any other cue (command).

Think of the first steps of training any skill as kindergarten and keep expectations realistic. Right now, all you want to do is pair the sound of “Fido” with a reward. You can practice throughout the day, especially at mealtimes – a great time to do a bit of training. 

For any behaviour you need a way to tell the puppy what he did is right. We do this with a “marker”, either a clicker or the word “yes” when the pup does what we want.

To teach your dog his name: The first step is to not use it ☺ Assuming your dog understands “Fido” and all that it entails is a big training error made by many people. Ultimately, we want “Fido” to mean – when you hear that sound look at me no matter what you are doing. It’s an essential first step for a rock solid recall!

To teach your puppy what “Fido” means start by preparing 10 – 20 pieces of kibble. 

1) To begin, simply make a kissey sound so he turns to look at you, mark and reward when he does. Do two or three repetitions this way to get him interested in the game.

2) Next, when he is already looking at you (not when he’s distracted), say “Fido”, mark and reward. 

Repeat this until all the pieces are gone. 

Remember you are not using his name right now for anything but simply pairing it with a treat.

You will find, after a few repetitions, he will be looking at you in anticipation, especially if he’s hungry. 

Repeat this process at the beginning of each meal and occasionally scattered throughout the day. Don’t feed his entire meal this way; we want him to enjoy his food! 

3) Next, prepare your kibble or treats, do a warm up of one or two repetitions using the kissey sound to see if the puppy is ready to play the game. Do one or two repetitions when the puppy looking at you, as in #2. 

4) This time, wait for the puppy to sniff the ground or glance away, say “Fido” only once! If he looks at you mark and reward. He is learning a new skill so allow a few seconds for him to turn to you. If he doesn’t, make your kissey sound – mark and reward when he looks. Repeat.

If he doesn’t look at and you need to get his attention with the kissey sound more than 3 times, go back to step 2. Practice that step a few more times.

It’s important to avoid repeating “Fido”. That’s how most people end up teaching the dog to ignore his name.

5) Increase difficulty gradually. Say the pup’s name when he is in an adjoining room or walking away from you. Mark and reward as above if he looks at you. Use the kissey sound or hand clap to get his attention if he doesn’t. Then mark and reward when he does. Always reassess if you are not getting the response you want. Return to the previous level and practice some more.

Increase the level of difficulty gradually so eventually there is lots of noise and activity in the house – and he still responds when you say his name.

When you step outside the front door, back door, go on a walk, go to someone else’s home, the park, it’s important to remember the need to return to name training 101 – start right at step 1. Gradually build up to the response you had inside the house, with distractions.


Training Tip: if you are not sure your puppy will respond when you say his name, use the universal “puppy, puppy” in a sing song voice to get his attention. That will prevent the more common mistake of chanting the puppy’s name. A sure fire way to teach him he doesn’t have to respond!


Your puppy’s name should always predict good things and be music to his ears!