Why Doesn’t My Dog Answer to His Name?

Why Doesn’t My Dog Answer to His Name

Dogs can be stubborn creatures, make no mistake. And none more so when they refuse to answer to their name and come to you. You might even have a dog who doesn’t even acknowledge that you are talking to him! But what does this behavior mean? Here’s why your dog doesn’t answer to his name and what you might do to rectify it.

Why doesn’t my dog answer to his name? Your dog might not answer to his name for a number of reasons including a lack of training or something that happened in his past. It’s a challenge you can overcome if you have the patience.

Fortunately, the research has been done for you. In this article I will explain what I believe the reasons are for your dog not answering to his name, and the background behavior as well as some solutions – because all dogs should know their name and respond to it.

Reason 1: Ineffective dog training

It’s highly recommended that you get your dog—puppy or not—enlisted in some kind of dog training class as soon as you can. This is to help them understand basic commands as well as learning their name. Just as children go to school to learn, dogs need a similar learning environment in order to learn correct behavior.

An animal is born with its natural instincts and much of it can prompt behavior you don’t approve of, especially a dog. You’ve seen how they want to sniff at everything and run around instead of staying by your side during a walk.

However, you can’t expect your dog to walk properly on a leash, listen to commands and understand its name right away. This is why training is so important since the animal will be encouraged and taught in a good environment that teaches the right habits.

However, it’s important that you take what you learn in class home with you and apply it there too. Otherwise, you’ll mess with your dog’s training. The lessons will be pointless and ineffective if they’re once a week and you don’t reinforce them.

Here are some tips on how to continue training your dog at home.

Improve training with consistency

It won’t help to take your dog to training classes for you to then ruin it at home. By taking everything you learn and implementing it at home, your dog can then further learn your tone of voice, the actions, and the command in the environment it lives in.

Continuing training at home is a key factor to maintaining good behavior with your dog. They’ll get confused if your expectations in the home environment are completely different from what they’re being taught in class.

Consistency is also vital to your dog’s understanding and answering of its name. How will it make sense of situations if you’re using a different way—such as a nickname—to call it over to you? Calling out different commands that they’re not used to will confuse them. Stick to calling their name, and use it with other commands for optimal clarity.

Remember positive affirmation

While training your dog you should use positive tones and treats to instill good behavior. A dog will be more likely remember the reward they got for obeying a command or answering to their name. This makes it easier for them to remember what to do the next time.

Rewarding positive outcomes is a way for you to have more control over your dog and their training outside of lesson time.

Handy Hint: If you dog has started to ignore you and withdraw affection it might be related to some other reasons listed here.

Reason 2: Bad connotation with the name

There are a few instances where a dog could have a bad connotation with the name it’s been given – dogs like this will often not want to answer to their name for reasons you might not have historical knowledge on. This memory can cause your dog to misbehave or not respond to his name. It can be difficult to make things work in such a scenario but with patience and the right steps you can make things work.

Let’s go through two reasons why there could be a bad connotation with the name and why your dog might not want to answer to his name based on bad long-term memories.

Adoptions may require training

There are some cases where a dog has been in a very unpleasant and dangerous environment. During that time, the dog could’ve been treated badly while having its name called out which will then make them not want to answer to their name at all.

This will be information you may not have as the current owner of the dog. Without this context, it becomes challenging to understand your dog’s responses. Taking your dog to a professional dog trainer can help this situation.

It won’t be easy but you could train your dog to love its name again with the right affirmations and encouragement. However, if that doesn’t work you may have to look into creating a new name for your dog, one that would be easy for them to distinguish and get used to.

dog wont answer name
Your dog might not answer to his name when tired, or if just ignoring you!

Constant name change brings confusion

While being with a breeder, puppy handler or foster parent, a dog normally gets given a name which they then get used to. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad connotation, just rather confusing when they get to their forever and you’re giving it an entirely new name.

Handy Hint: I have previously written a guide on the strategy you can use for renaming a rescue dog.

You don’t have to keep the name they have been given but making the transition into learning their new name easier is wise. You can do this by using the new name often as possible, in order to get a reaction from your dog and rewarding their response to it with a positive tone and treats.

Expecting them to respond to the new name can take time, especially if the dog is a bit older and used to a previous name. Prepare to be patient and kind, since dogs learn best in a positive atmosphere, rather than being yelled at.

You should hopefully get to the point where your dog answers to his name with no pause or delay.

What’s next? Seek medical or professional advice

What if you face a real challenge? For example, you may not even know your dog’s previous name, and it may not respond to any label you give it. If you have done all of the above with no results, it may be a good idea to seek some help from someone who has studied dogs and can tell you how to improve the situation.

As stated, the right behavior isn’t easily taught and takes time, so patience is key. Knowing what you’re doing wrong and how to change that could be the step in the right direction you’re looking for.

A professional dog behaviorist has the skill to understand a dog’s reactions and what the cause may be. They also know how to create the optimal learning environment, without letting a human’s agitation affect the dog’s ability to learn.

You can also have your dog checked out at the vet, to ensure it doesn’t have any hearing problems.

Why is it important that your dog knows its name?

Should this topic be a priority? Yes! Having a dog answer to his name is very important as things can go terribly wrong if they ignore you on a walk, for example. You need a dog to recognize and respond to its name to ensure a manner of control over your dog.

And remember, dogs love running around boisterously but they actually love and appreciate order. When they know they’re making you happy, they’re happy. So finding a solution to this challenge will improve life for both of you.


Being a dog owner can be a lot of work while being rewarding at the same time. Dogs are fun to play with, cute and cuddly to hold but difficult to understand due to the communication barrier. The joy of being an owner can quickly fade if your dog is behaving a certain way you don’t approve of and you can’t figure out why.

Whilst it is unlikely dogs will ever be able to talk, a well adjusted and happy dog should be able to answer to his name with patience from the owner.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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