KPA Tip of the Day: Say Your Pet's Name Before Giving a Cue

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Sometimes people are distracted when we talk to them, and don't notice that we have spoken. The same thing happens with our pets. Rather than asking your pet to do something, and then being aggravated when he doesn't respond since he was distracted, say your pet's name to get his attention before giving him a cue. If your pet won't pay attention to you, he's too distracted to respond to a cue anyway, so you might as well say his name first to see if he even knows you are speaking.

To encourage your pet to respond when you say his name, you can clicker train a name response. Here's a quick summary of how to do this:

  1. Stand in front of your pet, wait for your pet to make eye contact, and then click and treat. After a few repetitions, your pet should begin to initiate eye contact immediately after eating the treat.
  2. When you are willing to bet $100 your dog will make eye contact with you at a certain moment, say your pet's name just before the eye contact happens, and then click and treat when your pet looks at you.
  3. After you have repeated this training in a few sessions, take a break and then say your pet's name "cold," clicking and treating if you get eye contact. If your pet doesn't respond, go back to practicing in a more formal way for a while longer and then try it "cold" again.
KPA Tips of the Day are brought to you by Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners. You can find more great tips here.
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Irith Bloom, Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) Certified Training Partner (CTP), Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer, and Certified Pet Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), has been training animals since the 1980s. She is the owner of The Sophisticated Dog, LLC in Los Angeles, as well as a volunteer for National English Shepherd Rescue.