Many people wonder if their dogs actually know their name or are just responding to the tone of their voice. See what experts have to say about whether or not dogs know their names.
Dogs actually do know their names. However, rather than actually knowing what its name is, your dog can recognize its name from other sounds. The way dogs’ brains respond to their name is similar to how a person’s brain responds to when their name is called.
This article will explain the science behind how dogs know their name. It will also answer why your dog might not be responding to its name. You’ll also read about the different things you can do to help your dog learn its name.
How Do Dogs Know Their Name?
According to studies conducted by animal behavior specialists, dogs are able to learn and distinguish an average of 200 words. Some dogs knew as few as 80 but there is also a dog that knows over 1,000 words! Of course, among these words is their name. Although the number of words a dog can learn varies for each dog, almost every dog knows their name.
The results of the studies showed that dogs are able to understand what a word means through deduction. In other words, they can understand what a word means depending on the context of a situation. When you tell your dog “Do you want to go outside?” it doesn’t know that you’re asking and instead thinks “This is what my human usually says when I’m about to go outside. That must mean we’re going for a walk!”
With positive reinforcement added to the deduction, it becomes even easier for your dog to understand some of the words you say. Whenever you praise or reward your dog for understanding you correctly, it tells your dog that there’s a pattern. Performing an action like coming to you when you call their name gets them pets or a treat.
Your dog might not know that that’s its name but it understands that it means they should come to you. The same way it understands that “walk” means they’re going outside. The same way it understands that saying “sit” means they should put their behinds on the floor. Your dog knows it because it can deduct and because you reward them.
Why Doesn’t My Dog Respond to Its Name?
You might be wondering then, why doesn’t my dog come to me when I call it? The simple answer is that it’s your dog’s personality. Even if your dog doesn’t respond to its name, it does in fact know it. Even without a response, there is still a reaction happening in your dog’s brain.
The reason why your dog isn’t responding to its name is that it just doesn’t care that much. This is the same reason why cats don’t come when called by name. They just have no interest in going to their owners. There are different reasons why your dog might not be interested.
For example, your dog could be busy doing something else when you call it. It could also be too tired or not in the mood to hang out. It could also be preoccupied with something that’s much more interesting than you are at the moment. Whatever it is, it’s more important than going to you.
How To Teach Your Dogs Their Name
In case your dog still doesn’t know its name, there are things you can do to teach it! As mentioned earlier, positive reinforcement is a large part of how dogs learn words. You can make your positive reinforcement even stronger while teaching your dog its name. Below are some tips and things to avoid when teaching a dog its’ name.
Choose a Simple Name
According to experts, most dogs have a harder time understanding words with a lot of syllables. So it’s best to choose a name that’s just one to two syllables long and has hard sounds. For example, your dog might do well with a name like “Rex” or “Bella” but names like “Deborah” or “Fernando” might be a challenge.
Choosing a shorter and simpler name can improve your dog’s responsiveness to its name by a lot. With a short name, your dog can remember it faster and better understand that you’re calling it to be by your side. Using a longer name might cause your dog to either take a long time to remember its name or never learn it at all.
Call Your Dog While It Isn’t Paying Attention
The best time to practice calling your dog is to do it while your dog isn’t up to anything. Whenever you catch your dog just laying around, call it by its name and it’ll be more likely to respond and come to you. This works because there are no distractions that can keep your dog away.
Once your dog comes to you, quickly say a cue word to say that it did the right thing such as “Yes!” or “Good!” You can then follow it up with some affection or treats for positive reinforcement. Since one of the biggest reasons why dogs don’t respond to their name is a distraction, you should rule it out by waiting for when your dog is free and relaxed.
Avoid Saying Your Dog’s Name in a Negative Tone
The next and most important tip is to never say your dog’s name in an angry manner. For example, if your dog chews on it, don’t yell your dog’s name. Having negative experiences and hearing its name will tell your dog that its name means something bad.
Saying your dog in an angry manner could make your dog feel scared of hearing its name. It will also discourage any feeling that it should come to you when you say its name because your dog will think that you’re about to get mad whenever you say its name.
Although there isn’t a direct yes or no answer for whether or not your dog knows its name, you can at least rest easy because your dog knows what it means. Dogs are smarter than you think and not only understand their name but all sorts of words too.
Teaching your dog its name might take longer than you expect but that’s perfectly alright. Some dogs just take longer than others. Other dogs just aren’t always interested in being near their persons. It’s important to understand a dog’s personality and respect its boundaries.
The keys to teaching your dog its name are patience and positive reinforcement. You can train any dog to learn its name with enough effort and rewards. Just remember, keep the name short, reward your dog when it responds to its name, and never say your dog’s name in an angry manner.
Hey there! I’m Matt and I’m a content writer from the Philippines. I’ve raised over 10 dogs and 5 cats. I love taking care of my rescue dog Kewpie and my two rescue cats, Misty and Rosy.