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What approaches and evidence is there that you can teach a dog a new name?

I am looking for specific techniques and sources that validate such claim.

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Related (but on cats): pets.stackexchange.com/questions/2639/… –  Zaralynda Apr 7 at 18:52
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2 Answers 2

We have adopted 3 rescue dogs over the past five years; we taught each one of them their new names in a short amount of time by associating their new name with good stuff.

According to this article, dogs do not get personally attached to names like humans do; it's what the name is associated with, this is why experts recommend not using the dogs name if they are being reprimanded.

My source goes on to explain that we still do not know for 100% certain what goes on inside a dogs head, but we can deduce that a dog probably learns to associate the sound of their name the same way they associate things like their toys, the leash, or grabbing the keys to the car with good or bad feelings.

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As @Zaralynda commented, part of the answer can be found in this question: How can I tell if my cat knows his name?

However I don't think you are considering the right problem. There is no difference between teaching a dog a new name and teaching a dog his name. What is "teaching a name" in the first place?

The fact that we have to teach/re-teach its name to the dog actually tells the difference between dogs and humans: dogs learn their name by association (a sound associated with other actions on our part, he learns to perform an action on his own) while we know our name. The whole concept is totally different, dogs don't have the same level of self-consciousness as we have (reference, among others and references cited in the book).

So, as dogs don't understand verbal language and learn by association it is pretty easy to teach them their name, once you've defined what you expect them to do (usually look at you), see the other question mentioned above and my answer.

All of this suggests also that we usually overuse our dogs name. Depending on the way we say it/yell it, we expect the dog to understand subtleties such as "don't do this", "come here", etc. If the dog associates his name clearly, he won't be able to guess what we mean, if he understands clearly the tone of our voice, then its name becomes part of the ambient noise.

So we should not tell his name when we want to reprimand him. Of course we'll use it when we pet him, etc. so it is good practice to reinforce the action of looking at us when we say its name (he usually start training sessions with a few repetitions of that exercise every other day, or when perfecting his leash-training).

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