Just like any other behavior, we can teach our dogs to better respond to their name. A name is a cue that means “stop what you’re doing, pay attention to me, and await further direction.”
In order to avoid decreasing value in the power of the cue (their name), only ever say it once. Give your dog time to respond! Give a full thirty seconds to see if your dog can make a good decision, and when they look at you, mark that (praise or click) and give treats.
If your dog isn’t able to look at you after thirty seconds, then:
1. Get closer to your dog and help them look at you by being entertaining. You can wave, smooch, clap your hands, or make a rapidly repeating note to help them look up.
2. Assume the environment is too distracting for your dog to look at you, set them up for success by moving someplace less exciting. In dogs, attention can look like a lot of things. It can be your dog turning to face you, it can be a quick look in your direction, or it could even be an ear turn towards you while the dog continues to look at a distraction. Any of those are okay right now, and any of those should be marked and rewarded – we can shape this behavior into looking more like what we want it to look like later.