PET CARE

Dogs learn by repetition

When you obtain a new dog you can be faced with the fact that his or her name you find disagreeable, even distasteful. How will the dog react to a change of name?

The answer to the first question is that the dog will quickly adjust to the new name providing you use it time and time again when you call him.

Working with Americans for most of my life I was always surprised that they always call someone by their name when addressing them. Then one day when travelling by air a passenger came and sat by me shortly before take off and he seemed vaguely familiar. He immediately called me by name and started chatting. As the conversation continued I was reminded of the time we met some four years before. It was the first and only time and we discussed the music for a film and certain union complications. The discussion had lasted for ten minutes at most. Yet he remembered my name. I was surprised and said so, asking him how he did it. He was an American and told me he met a large number of people in his working life and had learned the trick from his father.

"You will not have remembered it but when we met the first time and I found your name I kept on calling you by it before each statement, like I do with music, I hear a note or phrase and commit it to its written form and to my memory and it sticks. I cannot explain it further. I associate it with a face. Repetition is the answer."

I believe this is so with dogs. Repeat the name with every call. Digger came to us four years ago when he was three and was called Milo by the previous owner who had died. On arrival, he immediately jumped into the pool just as a dog we had twenty years ago did called Digger. So the name given on the spot was Digger and it stayed. It took only three weeks before he answered to it.

What about the name itself? The best name is one of only one or two syllables like Zac or Jake or Blazer. A short crisp name. We once had a dog who came to us called Valentino. We renamed him Jake and he took to it within a fortnight.