How to help your pet learn their name

Teaching a pet to respond to his name is no small feat.  Most importantly before teaching him to respond to his name you have to pick a good one. Recently a friend welcomed home a shelter cat with one leg missing. They were considering dozens of names but decided to go with the name Nemo, after the fish in Finding Nemo. They liked the name so much because the character also faced physical challenges but with love and a strong spirit overcame them.   What a great name and that’s how it should be, so pick out a good name that means something to you.

After deciding on a name you have to help your pet to learn to distinguish it. What you’d like to see is that a pet will look to his human when they call his name. The name is usually used to call the pet’s attention and then to tell them what they want them to do afterward, for example, “Nemo, here, kitty, kitty” or “Nemo, dinner.”

To help make the name meaningful for the pet, associate it with something that he likes, such as petting, treats, going outside, play, or food.

To teach Nemo his new name, a treat was placed on the ground by the owner’s feet and they called “Nemo.” This taught him to turn his body toward them when he heard his name. They would pet him as a reward as well after first calling his name. When he looked at them, they called him saying “Here, kitty, kitty,” and drew him near with playful hand gestures so he could be petted. Also, they’d invite him to the bed for their daughter’s bedtime story with his name.

As you avoid repeating the name over and over, it maintains significance for your pet. Following the names with attention-getting noises, such as leg slapping or high-pitched sounds, work quite well to get his attention if at first he doesn’t respond to his name, and then you can reward him.

Now, when you have multiple pets and wish to speak with multiple at the same time, you can use a general term for more than one pet. For example, when speaking to a pair of Pugs, instead of saying their individual names, you could use “boys.” “Hey, boys, want to go outside?”

If scolding and lecturing your pet is needed, however, is not recommended, use of a formal name in place of his normal name will help your pet maintain a positive association to his normal name, similar to a mother using her child’s formal name when she is upset, using “Lexington William” in place of “Lex.”

With practice, your pet will start directing his attention toward you when he hears his name, as he has an association that good things happen when you call his name.