Your name means something. For many, the name you have in adulthood was given when you are born.
Names are the start of your identity. Nicknames, stories and memories come from the mouths of friends, family, peers, employers and employees with your name attached to them.
For others, new names are adopted due to changing identities, family structures or even because you did not like the name you were born into.
Names are apart of your being and they help create who you are past, present and future.
What about dogs? The same holds true for them too. Names are given to our best friends out of love. You may even try and capture the essence of your dog through his name or many times, his nicknames clarifies different parts of your dog’s self.
A client this past week, said something so profound which made me pause. She described how her dog responded to her name differently in different circumstances and explained her understanding of the situation.
At the start of each session with clients, I ask what’s going well, what challenges are happening and how can we move forward.
These three questions help people jog their memory, set both the client and dog up for success, acknowledge learning never happens in a straight line (there are good days and not so good ones) and setting a plan for practice for the week ahead with new homework to work on.
Sharee adopted a beautiful German Shepherd, whose name is Ellie. Ellie is a bit timid, but has a whole lotta love to give. Ellie is still learning the ropes of being in her new home, so the family is working out setting up a routine, boundaries and consistent rules for the home which will keep Ellie, Bella and Moon safe.
For Ellie, moving into a new home, having a new-to-her family and having a different way of life can be confusing. It can lead to things like barking, or cat chasing or getting into things that the family doesn’t want her to get into.
Plain and simple, Ellie is smart. Sometimes, this can lead to her family’s frustration.
In our first session, we practiced with helping Ellie learn to love her name. All good things happen when someone says Ellie’s name. This is one of the foundation behaviors you’ll learn when you become a client.
It goes like this, say your dog’s name, your dog will offer a head turn towards you or come over to you, praise and reward. Simple.
You need your dog to love coming when his name is called. All requests for behaviors start with your dog’s name. Your job is making sure your dog loves when you call his name. Happy, high pitched voice is the way to go.
Now going back to my conversation with Sharee. She made the connection that when her family said Ellie’s name with a happy voice, Ellie was eager and willing to come over and say hello. On the flip side, when there is frustration in saying Ellie, Ellie was more reluctant and unsure about coming over.
Makes total sense. Not only does the tone and pitch change when we are happy vs frustrated, but your body language does too.
Now, if Sharee and her family did not make this connection with how they say Ellie’s name, this definitely would lead to a breakdown in their relationship and increase Sharee’s frustration with Ellie’s behavior.
What would start to happen, Sharee would start to see Ellie doing the wrong thing more frequently, say Ellie’s name with frustration which would give Ellie attention when she isn’t doing the right thing. This will reinforce Ellie’s behavior of cat chasing, getting into things she should not and barking. Plus it would lead Ellie to avoid family members and she would most likely make the choice not to come to Sharee when she calls Ellie’s name.
Then the cycle begins. Behavior the family does not want is reinforced. Everyone is frustrated and at wits end.
The choice is simple. Make all interactions with your dogs happy and enjoyable and you will get the behaviors you want, you will reinforce them and your dog will always love coming to you.