I am getting ready to adopt my first dog from a shelter, but I don't like his name. What's the best way to teach him a new one and get him used to it?
Changing a dog's name is perfectly acceptable and is a relatively easy thing to do when done correctly. Oftentimes, finding a name that rhymes or begins with the same sound will make the process a little easier and faster, but it's not a necessity.
First, decide on the name and make sure everyone within your household agrees. It can become very confusing for the dog if different people call him by a different name. Once you've settled on the name, it's time to start with classical conditioning: associating his new name with something special, such as tasty treats and lots of attention.
Get the entire family involved by having each member take turns calling him by his new name and giving him the tasty treat once he comes — and remember to praise, praise, praise! Practice these training sessions several times throughout the day, but keep it to five minutes or less and always keep it fun.
Be careful to never use your dog's name when you're upset. We want your new family member to associate his name with good things, not punishment or unhappiness.
Lastly, be persistent! It may take a little while but with patience, your new family member will be happily bouncing your way whenever he hears his new name.
This week's expert is Christine Lando, training specialist with the Baltimore Humane Society. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.