The Name Game for Fearful Dogs

fearful dogs Dec 05, 2022
happy dog looking up

Looking for a simple training game you can play with your fearful dog?  The "Name Game" teaches your pup to look at you when you say their name.  It's great for very fearful dogs because it doesn't require you to touch your dog or even be very close to them. As a bonus, you'll start to build a positive association with your voice.


The Name Game Step #1

Before you start, choose how and where your dog will be most comfortable for the training session. Maybe they'll prefer their safe space, or perhaps they're less fearful outdoors. Think about where to position yourself as well. Does your dog get nervous when you're very close to them, or if you're standing up? If that's the case, maybe sitting down at a distance from your dog is the place to start this training. 

  • Say your dog's name.  That's it. Nothing fancy here! 
  • Toss a treat to your dog. Your dog doesn't have to do anything in Step 1 to "earn" the treat. Just throw the treat to their dog no matter what they're doing. 

    You can hand feed your dog if they prefer that, but many fearful dogs haven't yet learned to comfortably take treats from people's hands. If you find that your dog is startled when you throw treats, check out this blog for some tips.   

That's it for step 1! If your dog isn't comfortable with much interaction yet, you might choose to do one-off repetitions of this game, separated by minutes or hours.  


The Name Game Step #2

  • Say your dog's name.  This is the same as in Step 1. 
  • Wait for your dog to look toward you.   Don't wait for eye contact- just a turning or lifting of their head toward you will do. 
  • Toss a treat to your dog. Again, same as Step 1. 


The Name Game Step #3

In this step, you'll repeat step 2 in different contexts, locations, times of day... possibly even with different family members! 



If you're looking to teach your fearful pup even more new skills?  Check out our training membership and community, Confidence Builders Club.