How you use your dog's name can cause it much confusion. Your dog will associate related events and see a relationship between contiguous impressions. It gets excited when you get the leash out, right? Sure, because the leash means a walk, a fun event. The box means treats, the food dish means a meal, a brush means grooming and nail clippers mean getting nails clipped. When you know very well that your dog forms many strong associations, why believe or assume it won't make similar assumptions and learn similar things regarding its name?

For example, I say: "Rover, Come!" and "Rover, Stay!" away from me. The next time I say Rover, do I expect him to break towards me or run away? Because I was just silly enough to teach him it means both! Look at how silly I can be: "Rover, Shut Up!" "Get Down, Rover!" "Rover, NO!" These are great ways to teach him that the word Rover means a reprimand. I then say: "Honey, Rover was so cute today! When Sam visited, Rover played so nicely! Even Carl liked Rover!" Rover just got ignored for paying attention to his name three times because I wasn't talking to him!

What have I done wrong so far here? First, I taught Rover that his name doesn't mean him, so he can ignore it. Second, I taught him it means punishment. Third, I taught him it means to stay away from me. But if he doesn't come to me EVERY time I call him, I'll rip his lips off! Do you see how we confuse our dogs?

The old belief was to use the dog's name to get its attention and then use the command to tell him what to do. Get its attention? What was he doing, worrying about the mortgage? When was the last time you entered the room and DIDN'T get his attention?! This belief also contradicts what we know about dog learning, like contiguous association. You know that he links related events, so why use his name to mean whatever occurs to you? Even without formal explanation, that simply doesn't make sense.

Another common incorrect belief is that you must use the dog's name with any verbal cue if you have more than one dog. Otherwise the dogs won't know which one you're talking to. This, too, will be proven incorrect shortly.

One of the most common desires of dog owners is to have their dog come when they call it. This is much easier and more reliably successful if you first remove any reason it has NOT to come when called. If the name means reprimands or to stay away from you, you sure gave it reasons not to come when called!

Here's the answer: Use a dog's name only when you are directly addressing that dog in a positive way. Say it when giving the dog meals, treats, love, massages, petting, walks and whatever it really likes. And the ONLY command you say it with is "Come!" because coming to you should be among your dog's greatest joys, so that's consistent with all the other positive things its name is linked with. If the ONLY times your dog hears his name is "Yes, Rover! Good Rover! Rover, here's a treat! Have a massage, Rover!" how does he NOT come when you call him?!

A very effective way to verbally correct a dog and avoid its name is to use specific words. "Off!" means stay on the floor or get off of whatever he's on. "Quiet!" means to be silent, not be bark or howl. "Drop!" means to leave something alone or drop it from his mouth. So now you don't need a name! If one or two dogs is/are barking, "Quiet!" not only tells them what to do, it tells all of them exactly who you're addressing! The quiet dogs know you mean the loudmouths! Same with Off, Drop, Back, Out or whatever direction you say.

See? You CAN correct just one dog without using names! Not only can you, it's better to do it this way! If I say: "Dogs, come!" they all come to me. "Girls, come!" and the females come. "Boys, come!" and the males come. Or "Mugger, come!" and Mugger comes. Where's the problem or confusion?

The point is very simple: Don't use your dog's name to mean contradictory or diametrically opposed things. Use it to mean only good things directed to that dog and make coming to you a very good thing. I've done this for decades with dozens of my own and thousands of client dogs all over the world. I KNOW it works very well.

Given what I hear about training today, the dogs aren't the only ones confused!

Dr. Fetko’s Tips Using Your Dog’s NAME You Can’t Teach Nothing

No, I'm not saying you're incompetent! I mean this literally: You cannot teach NOTHING. Learning requires only normal neurological function. If a dog's senses and brain function normally, it will learn something from everything that happens to it. "Did I teach it anything?" is never the question. The real question: "What did I just teach this dog?"

Did you teach it to respect you or ignore you? Did it learn you will enforce your directive or that you'll give in if it resists? That working with you is fun, pleasant and positive or dull, boring, harsh work? If you use forceful physical corrections, did you teach it that force and violence succeed? Did you teach it that a correction means pain or terror, and therefore to trust you less from now on? Does it now know that you're a boss or just a bully? Do YOU know the difference between them?!

You're always teaching SOMETHING. If you're not sure exactly what it is, don't work with it until you're confident what the lesson will be, and that you in fact want it to learn that. What you teach a dog is up to you - even if you don't know that learning is happening. Don't teach it what you don't want it to know. It sounds simple, but anything simple is also simple to mess up. Be mindful, aware, careful, and respectful, because that wonderful critter is ALWAYS learning.