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Cure your dog's selective hearing! THE NAME GAME

Updated: Jul 12

Everyday dog owners tell their trainers that their dog has 'selective hearing' The name game is the perfect solution to this problem.

Try the “Name” game and get the engagement you want from your dog. This game is so easy it can be used on brand-new puppies and new rescues. With just a little practice you be amazed to see what a star listener your dog will become. During a dog board and train session with your dog, we play the name game before we start a training session every single time.

Get Your Dog to Listen to You Every Time.

When your dog is not looking in your direction it is safe to assume that it can’t hear you. Once your dog is running away from you chasing something exciting, or following its nose, good luck trying to get it to respond to its name.

Here’s a simple game you can play with your dog to improve your dog’s response to their name.

Time to set up for success.

Fill your treat pouch with your dog's kibble or tasty treats.

Get your clicker ready or use the marker, Yes! Your dog must be conditioned to a clicker or the marker, Yes! If your dog is not already conditioned to marker training please visit our loading your marker blog.

Make sure you are familiar with dog body language before you begin any training

Ensure that your dog has water nearby and that you are training in an area that your dog is comfortable in (for example non-slip flooring).

Step One – Make Eye Contact and Use a Gentle Voice.

Standing close to your dog, say its name in a relaxed and light tone while holding a piece of

kibble (or freeze-dried raw food). If your dog does not respond or look at you, reach out and offer the kibble. At the exact moment that your dog eats the reward say your dog’s name in a light friendly tone. Repeat, repeat and repeat this step.

Once they are constantly responding to you when you say their name by looking and coming towards you mark their response with “YES” or a click and reward. Repeat this procedure 10 to 15 times, with the kibble.

Practice this in every room of the house and then room to room. If you have a yard practice in the front and back yard as well as on a leash. Have each household member play this game daily with your dog over 7 days—and you’ll see a much better response and engagement.

Tip: For a timid dog, slowly increase the number of times you say their name and offer the

kibble. Repeat and repeat, at a more gradual pace. Remember if the dog disengages by walking away, showing their back, or laying down. Let them have a break and try again later.

Step Two – Practice with a Commanding Tone.

After you have practiced this diligently for 7-days in every room of your house, and outdoors Your dog is now conditioned to respond when you say its name in a soft and pleasant voice

paired with a small food reward, but what happens when your dog goes to run for the road or

puts their paws up on the stove? We naturally use a louder, stern or panics tone of voice to keep our dog safe it human response to communicate with our voice.

We always want to avoid using a harsh tone with our dogs as much as possible. However, we are all human and tone of voice is a human response. Ideally, we want our dog to respond to us regardless of the tone of our voice.

To achieve this response to our sterner tone of voice we must condition our dog to

understand that our louder and stern tone of voice is safe. So simply repeat the instructions of Step One and add high-value food rewards like cooked meat or cheese. Change your tone of voice and the volume to slightly gruffer, sterner and a bit louder and offer a higher-value food reward. Start at a level 1 and repeat and repeat. Only if there is no stress signs from your dog and they are readily responding and coming to you early increase the volume of your tone to level 2 and once again repeat, repeat and repeat. Continually increase your tone and volume - do not go too fast with this step. If done right and your dog is confident this

creates the correct response in your dog for real-life situations when your voice is panicked.

The key is increasing the value and volume of the food reward and pairing it with your sterner tone as you say your dog’s name. This starts to train your dog to understand its own name whether you say it in a quiet, stern or louder voice and feel safe and want to come to you.

Bubba the brown and white English bulldog sitting and waiting during his board and train program with his name "Bubba" spelt in kibbles.
Bubba the bull dog sitting calmly during his board and train program with his name "Bubba" spelt in kibbles.

Step Three – Add Some Typical Distractions for Your Dog.

Once your dog is responding to their name with a soft friendly tone and a louder stern tone, it is time to practice both outdoors on your walks, and indoors wherever distractions typically


When outdoors, practice the Name Game when your dog strains at the leash when other

people walk by or when it sees another dog.

Indoors, it could be at times when your dog barks at the window, at the door, or the food


Use the Name Game to get your dog’s attention away from the distraction and give them

another command like sit, down or go to your place to settle your dog.

If your dog is at the end of the leash use their name to get them to look at you. Once they are

looking at you, reward them with kibble and affection. The name game is a must for any dog that is distractible or reactive on leash.

Success Tips.

Only use your dog’s name when you can follow through with a reward. Your dog's reward systems are food, praise, affection and play. You can also use toys and play to reward your dog for responding to their name. You can use all four reward systems and make it extra exciting. Every dog picked up from our dog board and training programs have amazing name recombination because of this game.

Avoid these.

Never use the dog’s name to scold or punish.

Don’t use the dog’s name if its behaviour is “over the threshold”; that is, already barking,

lunging, or hyper-vigilant. They can't hear you. You will need to go and get your dog and bring it back.

Never scold a dog for coming to you after it has been chasing something, the dog will assume it is being punished for coming to you.

Australia heeler chasing a fawn boxer across the field during playtime.
Obie the heeler chasing Buddy the Boxer during the fearful to confident board and train program.

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01 mai 2022

Thank you for sharing this step by step. This is the most basic abs fundamental of training. I can direct my friends and clients to this article to make my job easier as a dog trainer.

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