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Chocolate Havanese

Name recognition and attention training

Let's go right back to the beginning, the day you bring your new little furbaby home. Every dog needs a name. Some names are cute, some inspiring, others reflective or descriptive. It' really doesn't matter what name you choose. Some people advocate one or two syllable names or names enduing with vowels and there may be some merit in that, but the truth is, the dog will adapt to whatever name you choose. Just pick a name that is easy for you to say. Someone with a lisp might avoid a name like "Sassafras"; similarly, a family with young children might avoid a long complicated multi syllable name like "Nicolodeon" and instead choose a short name "Max" easy for all family members to say. It's your dog, your choice. Many dogs do not truly understand their names. That's our fault because we did not teach them. If someone calls your name, the natural reaction is to turn and look. That's the reaction we would like in your dog too. We don't want him to specifically "do" anything when he hears his name, just to turn and look and wait for the next thing you say.

A name does not mean "come" , it does not mean "down" , it just means, "I'm talking to YOU". This should be the dogs cue to "Give my attention to the human who just said my name." You are teaching your dog to check in with you. This is an extremely important behaviour to teach. If you don't have a dog's attention, how can you expect to teach him to do anything? Name recognition and attention training is done in a totally positive manner with positive reinforcement.

Name recognition

Non-treat method

Say the puppy's name often and whenever he responds by looking at you "click" if you are clicker training or say "Yes" or "good puppy". If he won't look at you, make a small noise to get his attention, cluck your tongue, snap your fingers etc . When he does turn to look at you, give the puppy a hug, a brief scratch under the chin, a tummy tickle, and plenty of smiles. In this way, you can establish several physical and verbal rewards without having your puppy become totally dependent on food rewards. Make sure that your voice rewards sound different from your everyday, conversational voice. Make your voice bright and cherry sounding.

Treat method

Have several treats ready. Sit on a chair or on the floor near your puppy. Put a treat in your closed hand and place your hands on your knees. Do not say anything. Let the dog sniff and lick and nudge your hands. Say his name count to 5 and say his name again Eventually, out of frustration for not being able to get the treats he knows are there, the dog will glance up at your face and look to you for direction. As soon as he looks up, "Click" if you are clicker training or say "Yes" or "Good Puppy" and immediately give him the treat. After just a few sessions, your puppy will begin to happily associate the sound of his name with a tasty treat.

If you want, you may prefer to put your dog on a leash for your training sessions. The leash is not for corrections, it is simply to stop the dog from wandering away from you, jumping up, or other undesirable behaviors. Step or sit on the leash to anchor it and leave your hands free for treats and physical praise.

Focus and attention

As your puppy starts to understand that good things happen when you say his name, he will respond more quickly and enthusiastically. Now you should begin the exercise when your dog's attention is not focused on you. Repeat his name often when he is distracted or doing other things like eating, drinking, playing or looking out the window. When he responds by turning towards you, make eye contact with him and prasie or reward. As he gets better and quicker to respond, you can delay praise or reward and continue to talk to him for a few seconds and gradually build up time to 30 seconds or so. This will serve to reinforce eye contact and focus and longer attention. Repeat this exercise often and in as many different situations as possible. Before you know it, your puppy will be responding to his name reliably.

If your dog just does not seem to respond, it may be because you have not made it positive enough or enough fun or that you use the dogs name too casually and repeat it so often that he has learned to tune it out. Start over with the treat method on a leash and some extra yummy treats when your dog is hungry. Do not use the name when reprimanding or to correct or punish the puppy. If you do, he will learn to avoid you when you use his name and turn away and hide which is exactly opposite to what you are trying to achieve.