Your Attention Please: What’s in a Name

Red merle Australian Shepherd

You rang?

If you and I were sitting in a room together and I continuously called your name without ever saying anything else; eventually you would come to ignore me or hit me. That’s because when someone speaks our name it’s akin to saying, “You there, I have something I would like to tell you;” we expect more information to follow. Yet a common mistake I see people make with their dogs involves this same behavior.

Your dog’s name should mean one thing and one thing only to them— “Your attention please: I have something relevant to tell you.” It’s too much to ask our dogs to understand that the tone of voice we use to say their name actually means sit, or stay, or leave that piece of bacon alone. Yet time and time again I see people use their dog’s name to mean exactly these things.

Dogs are great at discerning things that are important to them. On the other hand, because they have a limited ability to understand our language, they can be quick to ignore things they hear over and over again that don’t impact on their immediate state of being. This is called Learned Irrelevance and can be why some dogs stop responding to their names.

So remember that your dog’s name really means “Your Attention Please” and follow it up with information that your dog is sure to understand.