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"Mastering Focus: The Art of Getting Your Puppy to Respond to their Name"

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

"Mastering Focus: Getting Your Puppy to respond to their name" is an essential and integral part of their training. Training your puppy to Look at you. Training them to KNOW their name. Embed the puppies response to 'Focus on you'. Woo hoo the connection is lifelong. Worth your time for sure.


In this article, We are covering 2 topics in unison. The "Name" command and the "Watch" or "Watch Me" command.


Why does my dog need to know their name?


In answer to this question, we will be using the Boxer breed as an example, to discuss the universal aspects of puppy training. Let's meet John an enthusiastic Boxer lover, eagerly awaiting the arrival of his new mate, Happy.

Although our story is about Happy, the information provided is applicable to all breeds. Each puppy is a distinct individual with unique temperaments, physical structures, innate characteristics, and drives. Their breed lines and individual traits shape their personalities and roles. Even if you have recent experience with the same breed you had before, it is essential to approach each puppy with an open mind, as they may exhibit behaviors and traits that differ from any previous dogs you have encountered.


It is important to embrace their individuality and provide personalised attention and care. In other words, look for what sets them apart from your other dog and embrace the differences. Your past experience with the breed will undoubtedly offer valuable insights and serve as a solid foundation for your journey with your new puppy. As you embark on this remarkable adventure with your "Best Mate," the team at Bonnies extends their heartfelt wishes to you and your family for a joyous and fulfilling journey.



Puppies without this mopst essential abilities to focus on you every time you Say their name they MUST look at you in the EYES. Not a passing glance.
FOCUS - Your puppy looking at you with reason: YES - GOOD puppy:

Definition From the Merriam Webster Dictionary:


a: a center of activity, attraction, or attention the focus of the meeting was on assistance dogs for Veterans with PTSD (added) b: a point of concentration


Welcoming a new puppy into your life is an incredibly exciting and fulfilling journey. As you embark on this adventure with your new best mate, building a strong connection becomes paramount. The foundation of this connection lies in effective, consistent, concise, calm, and controlled communication. Mastering the art of getting your puppy to respond to their name is not just about them knowing their name, but also about teaching them where to look and focus consistently and even when they are excited or scenting. In this article, we will delve into the fundamental techniques and timing strategies that will enable you to achieve this goal and foster a profound bond with your Boxer companion, Happy. Together, we will explore the keys to successful name recognition and focus training, paving the way for a remarkable partnership with your beloved furry friend.


I. Importance of Teaching Your Boxer Puppy Their Name:

  1. Creating a strong "focus foundation" is undeniably crucial for establishing a deep bond with your puppy. Teaching them their name becomes the cornerstone of effective communication throughout their lives, as well as your own. It is a common misconception among puppy owners to assume that their furry companions know their name from an early age, simply because they occasionally respond when called at home. However, truly teaching your puppy their name and achieving the wonderful outcome of focused attention requires dedicated training over a period that can span from a few weeks to several months. The time and effort you invest in this process are key factors in its success. Many caring puppy owners have successfully mastered these vital steps to teach their 'Best Mate'.

  2. At "Bonnie's Dog Obedience and Puppy School" (www.bonnies.com.au), our "Puppy Magic" course is designed with a strong emphasis on fostering focus in puppies. We firmly believe in the significance of patience when teaching your puppy their name and emphasize the importance of consistent training among all family members, including the kids. By recognizing the value of building a solid foundation and maintaining consistency, you will play a pivotal role in helping your puppy learn their name and develop the focus necessary for effective communication and successful training.

  3. Ensuring the safety and maintaining control of your puppy are paramount considerations. A responsive puppy, who promptly follows commands, is more likely to stay out of harm's way. At our training facility, we wholeheartedly emphasize the significance of teaching your puppy to focus on you, particularly in crucial situations like preventing them from darting onto a busy road. Without incorporating "Focus" into your training routine, the desired outcomes may not be as favorable. It is through the synergy of focus and precise timing that control can be achieved. It is essential to comprehend that training a German Shepherd, Cocker Spaniel, or any breed can pose significant challenges without these crucial elements. By placing focus and timing as top priorities in your training efforts, you can establish a sturdy foundation of control, thereby ensuring the safety and well-being of your beloved pet.

  4. Building trust and fostering a strong connection with your puppy is a rewarding experience that can be achieved through consistent name response. When your puppy reliably acknowledges their name, it deepens the sense of trust between you and your puppy, strengthening your bond. It is truly delightful when your puppy looks at you, and over time, you can hold their gaze. Patience is key in this process, as it takes time for your puppy to develop this level of focus. It's important not to rush the training. Encouragingly, every member of the household can contribute to getting the puppy's focus by utilising positive energy and techniques. By working together, you can enhance the bond and establish a harmonious relationship based on trust and connection.


Focus is not just about looking at you but this is a vital part of getting them to partner with us, to get the job done.
Want to see PERFECT FOCUS - Just look at a working dog


II. How to Teach Your Boxer Puppy Their Name:

  1. When choosing a name for your puppy, it's important to opt for a distinctive and meaningful one. Select a name that is easy to pronounce, distinct from other commands, and carries a positive connotation. For example, you might choose the name "Happy" for your furry companion. At our training school, we observe that certain names are more commonly used, but what truly matters is the significance of the name to you. We recommend using just one name for your puppy, avoiding hyphenated or complicated names. Keep it clear, concise, and special for your puppy. In the event that you decide to shorten your puppy's name, such as "Hammerstein" to "Hammy" or "Hammer," make sure to use the name you will remember easily. It's not uncommon for a puppy or dog to have had a different name in a previous home or family, so maintaining consistency and using a name that resonates with you and your puppy is key.

  2. Creating positive associations with your puppy's name is crucial for effective training. You can achieve this by linking their name "Happy" to enjoyable experiences like yummy treats, gentle and affectionate pats, and special toys that are brought out as rewards for their good behavior and hearing you. Like everything we do with our puppies and their training is to make the task - Listen - hear - respond - 'High Value' to them by making it rewarding and fun. It's important to remember that the most fundamental and significant asset in your training journey is you, the handler. Training sessions should take place when you are calm and relaxed, as any tension or excessive anxiety can make it challenging for your puppy to focus on you. They can feel you. By wearing a big smile when your puppy hears their name, you create an environment of relaxation and remove any mental barriers that could hinder their ability to achieve a beautiful state of focus. Remember puppies read BODY LANGUAGE. Your positive energy and demeanor play a vital role in establishing a strong connection and facilitating successful training sessions.

  3. Utilise repetition and consistency:

    • Begin their training in a quiet environment: To ensure optimal focus during training sessions, it's advisable to begin in a tranquil environment with minimal distractions. One opportune time for training is during the quiet moments at home, such as before breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This time is especially beneficial when there are children, other pets, or ongoing household activities like moving or renovations. Taking a few minutes to train in these quieter moments allows for a more conducive learning environment. Incorporating training exercises before breakfast offers additional advantages. For instance, the puppy can be let out of their crate, taken on a leash to relieve themselves, and go for a brief walk around the yard with their owner—all of these interactions involving the clear use of their name, "Happy." These deliberate name associations become ingrained in the puppy's behavioral responses and, as expert Val Bonney suggests, "embed the learning for the life of the puppy." https://www.bonnies.com.au/shop-1 for Vals Books.

    • Say their name with enthusiasm. When first using your puppy's name, it is essential to do so with enthusiasm. Use a happy tone and pronounce their name clearly, emphasizing the first syllable - Hap-py. Tone and pitch play a significant role, especially during the initial stages of your puppy's training.

    • To ensure effective ongoing communication, it is vital to say your puppy's name in a normal tone, reflecting typical home and life conditions. Your puppy should respond to their name regardless of how it is said or the surrounding circumstances. This response plays a pivotal role in achieving the desired level of focus. However, if your puppy is not responding as expected, there are a couple of strategies you can try. Firstly, you can reintroduce tone and pitch with enthusiasm, reinvigorating their interest and reinforcing the desired response. Incorporating a combination of both a normal tone and enthusiastic delivery over a period of two to three weeks can further solidify the association. Secondly, leverage the power of treats. Capture your dog's attention with a treat and then use their name to elicit the desired response. Associating their name with a reward can motivate and encourage a consistent response.

    • Rewarding and reinforcing your puppy's response to their name is an essential step in the training process. When you say their name, and they turn to look at you, it's important to provide immediate positive reinforcement. This can be done by offering a treat and delivering enthusiastic verbal praise such as "YES! Good boy, Happy!" Positive energy and rewards help to reinforce the desired behavior. When giving your puppy a treat, it is recommended to use an open hand instead of closed fingers to avoid any confusion. This way, your puppy can clearly differentiate between your fingers and the treat itself. During any training session, whenever your puppy responds to your command, it's crucial to promptly acknowledge their success by saying "Yes, good puppy!" This reinforces their positive behavior and encourages continued learning and responsiveness.

    • Practice in different locations: Once your puppy responds reliably and consistently at home, gradually practice in various environments with various distractions including noise and and unknown environment to generalise the behavior.

    • Is your puppy's name, in fact, a command? Perhaps it is, a command to "focus" on you, to look at you in anticipation of receiving another command or praise. While the name itself may not be a direct command, if it elicits a response and directs your puppy's attention towards you, it can be considered closely related to a command.






III. Timing: The Key to Successful Name Response: Timing is the KEY to everything.


Order of Training to Achieve Desired Results:

  1. At 8 weeks of age, begin by saying your puppy's name and carefully observing their response. When your puppy displays any indication of acknowledging their name, such as moving an ear, slightly turning their head, looking up, or looking in your direction, it's important to provide immediate rewards. Use positive phrases like "Yes, good boy!" or "Yes, Happy!" to reinforce their recognition of their name. This technique is known as "marking the dog's behavior," where you mark the desired behavior with a positive response from you. By consistently marking and rewarding their response to their name, you are reinforcing the connection between their name and the positive experience, which helps in their training and developing focus.

  2. Introduce tone and pitch in your voice: Use a happy tone and an excited pitch, which is generally higher than your normal speaking voice. By associating excitement with their name, you can further engage your puppy's attention. At this stage, your puppy may respond by moving an ear or turning slightly towards you.

  3. Strategic use of treats: Utilise high-value treats such as chicken, carrot, apple, or a small amount of cheese to capture your puppy's attention. Combine the treats with the appropriate tone, pitch, and their name to elicit positive responses. Consistency in this approach will gradually reinforce your puppy's association with their name.

  4. Teach focus: Once your puppy knows their name and responds to it consistently, it's time to teach them to focus on you. Begin by using the verbal name command, such as "HAPPY," to get their attention. Simultaneously, introduce the "Watch" or "Watch Me" command to encourage eye contact. This can be done alongside name recognition training.

  5. The treat-to-eyes method: Hold an excellent treat that your puppy loves in your hand, close to their nose. As they scent the treat, say their name. Slowly bring your hand, with the treat, up towards your nose and eyes. The puppy should naturally follow the movement of your hand, allowing you to repeatedly say "watch me" as their gaze moves up to your eyes. This action promotes direct eye contact.

  6. Optimal positioning: Many clients find it beneficial to perform this exercise while bending down to their puppy. This shorter distance between you and the puppy helps them follow the treat up to your eyes more easily. This creates a solid foundation for focus.

  7. Consistency and practice: Consistency is key in this training process. Understand that it is not a quick fix and may take several days to establish a reliable response every time their name is called. By consistently saying their name and using the "treat to eyes method" with the cue/command "watch me," your puppy will gradually become accustomed to looking directly into your eyes.

Remember, the benefits of achieving this level of focus and consistency extend far into the future. It will enhance your walks, interactions, and overall relationship with your puppy, both on and off-leash. EG: When you are walking and passing another dog or other distraction instead of using the "Leave" command you can use the Fous Command of "Watch" or Watch me". You can choose which of these Commands you give - Many of our clients prefer the Watch Me as it refers to them - it makes it easier to remember the command in trying circumstances. This fundamental skill establishes a strong foundation for a well-grounded and well-behaved dog throughout their life.Gradually increasing the duration of your puppy's eye contact is a crucial aspect of building focus. Here's a breakdown of the process:

  1. Establishing Focus: When your puppy consistently looks directly into your eyes after hearing their name, even if it's only for a brief moment, it indicates that they are developing focus.Gradually Increasing Duration: Start by slowly increasing the duration of eye contact in small increments, while using the "Watch" or "Watch Me" command. Begin with 2 seconds of sustained eye contact, and then gradually progress to 3, 4, and eventually 5 seconds. Remember, this process may take a couple of months to master, but you will start to see positive results within 7 days. Celebrate the small victories along the way!

  2. Setting Realistic Expectations: It's important to have realistic expectations and understand that during the initial stages of training, long periods of focused attention may be challenging for your puppy. Be patient and understanding as they are learning. Take it one day at a time. For puppies between 8 to 12 weeks of age, achieving 3 seconds of eye contact is a great milestone. As your puppy grows older, from 12 weeks and beyond, aim for 4 to 10 seconds of sustained eye contact.

  3. Regain and retain Focus: If your puppy starts to lose focus and looks away, use a small verbal sound or noise like a click of the tongue to bring their attention back to you.

  4. Immediate Rewards: When rewarding your puppy, don't wait for them to look away. Instead, capture their focus and immediately say "YES" to acknowledge their attention, followed by providing the reward. Remember this is called 'MArking" the response - very important.

  5. Technique for Extending Duration: To extend the duration of eye contact, follow this technique: Initially, hold their gaze for 2 seconds, then reward them with a positive "YES" and praise. Maintain this 2-second duration for a couple of days.

  6. Gradual Progression: After three days of consistent 2-second eye contact, increase the time to 3 seconds and repeat the process of rewarding and praising.

  7. Continued Extension: Over the course of a few weeks, continue gradually extending the duration of eye contact. This step-by-step approach reinforces and solidifies their focus.

Remember to be patient and proceed slowly throughout this process. Each puppy progresses at their own pace, and it may take time to achieve the desired level of focus. By following these steps and gradually increasing the duration of focus, you can strengthen your puppy's ability to maintain attention and establish a solid foundation for further training.

  1. Capturing your puppy's attention effectively can be achieved by calling their name when they are already looking in your direction or during moments before playtime. This approach works exceptionally well when the puppy only needs to look up to acknowledge you. It's a straightforward yet highly effective strategy that can greatly assist you in your training endeavors.

  2. When implementing this method, take into account the puppy's location, body language, and level of tiredness, as these factors can work to your advantage. If the puppy is overly excited or too sleepy, it may be challenging to achieve the desired results. Just like the importance of tone, pitch, and energy in training, using a treat to gain their attention before using their name is a valuable technique.

  3. By incorporating these strategies into your training routine, especially during quiet times before breakfast, you can significantly enhance your puppy's responsiveness and overall training experience. Remember, consistency and patience are key. Repetition, consistency, and timely positive reinforcement will reinforce your puppy's response to their name. Stay patient and persistent in your training efforts, and you will see progress over time.

Mastering the skill of getting your Boxer puppy, Happy, to respond to their name and to FOCUS on you is a significant milestone in building a strong and harmonious relationship. By employing the techniques outlined in this article, such as choosing the right name, positive associations, repetition, and proper timing, you can cultivate your puppy's focus and attention on you. Enjoy the journey of training your puppy and revel in the deep connection that will undoubtedly blossom between you and your "Happy' puppy. Peter.



Written by Head Trainer and Master Puppy Trainer Peter Bonney. Discover the Secrets to Successful Dog Training Today! Share this valuable information with your fellow dog and puppy owners, because knowledge is power. Don't waste time searching for generic terms like 'dog training Brisbane' or 'dog training near me'. Instead, visit bonnies.com.au for expert insights and solutions tailored to your needs. Explore our other informative articles to expand your understanding even further. We value your input, so please leave a comment if you have any training suggestions or topics you'd like more information on. Don't miss out on this opportunity to enhance your dog training journey. Take action now and unleash the full potential of your four-legged companion! Cheers, Peter.

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