Teaching your dog the “Name Game”

Teaching your dog the “Name Game”

Want to challenge your dog’s mind? See how many objects you can teach her to identify by name! 

Who doesn’t love dog tricks? They’re such a fun way to bond with your dog…and they can do wonders for his mental stimulation! They also help reinforce reliable and obedient behaviour in a positive way.

If your dog has mastered the basics (sit, stay and come), why not try teaching him how to play the “Name Game”. This trick teaches him how to identity objects by name. Start with his favourite toy and see how many names he can learn. Use the tip sheet below to help guarantee success (after all, it worked for Chaser, the world’s smartest dog!).

Chaser’s Tip Sheet: Learning the First Word*

1. Keep learning sessions short

Keep your learning sessions short and sweet — no more than five minutes. You can and should repeat them throughout the day.

2. Teach her the name of a new object

Put only one toy on the floor so your dog cannot make a mistake.
b. Name the toy. Chaser’s first toy was a blue racketball named “blue”.
c. Do not introduce any new toys during this process. You can rehearse other toys throughout the day, but not during the “new toy” training sessions.

3. Use play to combine verbs with the new object

This is the perfect opportunity to teach verbs and combine them with the object in play behaviours such as:

  • Find “blue” — it’s the only object on the floor and in plain sight.
  • Take “blue” — hold out “blue” in your hand for her to take it in her mouth.
  • Chase “blue” — roll the ball on the floor for her to chase.
  • Fetch “blue” — another word for “find.”

4. Play hide and seek with the new toy

After multiple sessions of the above, you can begin hiding the toy in plain sight, again making it impossible for your pup to miss it. It’s a good opportunity to give the command “watch me!” which will also be the foundation for imitation.

  • On a chair
  • Under the couch – in sight
  • At the corner of the room

5. Avoid mistakes

If you see your dog is about to make a mistake, rather than correct her, immediately call her back to you. Back up a few steps until you both get back on track.

6. Know when to move on to a new toy

After several days of the above, place the toy in open view in another room and ask your dog to “find x”. You can even show her: “Chaser, here’s x!” Go into another room together and ask her to “find x”. This will eventually become a great game of “hide and seek”.

*Written by John W. Pilley & Pilley Bianchi © 2019 @chaserthebordercollie