Name Recognition (Name Reflex) Training

In a lot of our Pupdates, owners will see that we talk about practicing/training ‘Name Reflex’ with the dogs in our care. I wanted to explain further the importance of the cue and why it is one of the first things we teach at K9DC.

Why is Name Reflex useful for a dog to know?

Teaching a dog to give you his or her attention/eye contact immediately when they hear their name is an important behaviour to have in place. It can be used in a number of situations and can help improve all types of behaviours, commands and training too!

Katie practicing Name Reflex with Toffee (Terrier x in orange harness) in a distracting environment (around other dogs)

Training Name Reflex

1. Say your dogs name, mark with your word (e.g. “YES!) or click (for clicker trained dogs), then give your dog a treat

Repeat 10 times

ALWAYS reward at this stage! Regardless of whether they are looking at you or not.

2. Wait until your dogs focus is elsewhere, then say his or her name. When your dog looks at you, mark and reward!

Repeat until your looks at you successfully a few times in a row

If your dog isn’t looking at you at this stage, keep repeating step one. You may need to change your tone of voice to a more excitable one in order to get your dogs attention! The second he/she looks at you, mark and reward.

Click here for a step-by-step video tutorial on how to practice Name Reflex/Recognition

Practice on a lead to begin with, so that your dogs environment is slightly more controlled.

Adding Difficulty

Once you have practiced this repeatedly in low-key environments (for example, your home and garden), you can start to take the behaviour out & about for proofing. You’ll likely have to keep your dog on-lead at this point, but go to a place where there are a few more distractions and try it out.

Say your dogs name, when they look at you, mark and reward!

Adding Distance

If your dog is successfully responding to their name on a lead in an environment with a few distractions present, now you can start adding distance. Again, stick to a location with few distractions to start with, then wait until he/she is a few steps away. Say your dogs name and when they look at you, immediately mark and reward when he/she gets to you!

If they don’t come to you, don’t worry! But you still need to get that reward to them immediately. So throw them a treat if they are not close enough to you to receive a treat directly.

Trainer, Natalie, practicing Name Reflex with two puppies in the company of one another

Key Points

  • Proofing – You want this behaviour to be taught as often and in as many environments as possible. Your dog should be able to respond instantly to their name any time, any place!
  • Other People – Don’t forget to incorporate other friends and family members into the training. That way, it won’t just be you that your dog listens to!
  • Keep It Positive – You want your dog to learn that when they hear their name, good things happen. Never use your dogs name in an angry or a frustrated way as this will damage the cue. You want your dog to look at you right away and come towards you happily the second you say their name!

Always keep training sessions short, fun and positive! End on a good note, make sure your dog is enjoying the training and always stop for a break and come back to it later on if you are unsure.

If you have any questions regarding eye contact training, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via email or our social media pages (Facebook & Instagram) and we will happily help!

Let us know how you get on, but most importantly, have fun!

Natalie 🐾

Owner & Founder  |  K9 Development Centre


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