The Daily Spike: What’s in a name?

Fido! Molly! Rover! Ollie!

Naming a new puppy or dog can be a lot of fun. Ever wonder how Spike got his name?

Canine Companions for Independece names their puppies using one letter of the alphabet for each litter of pups, from A to Z. So, you guessed it, Spike’s siblings all have names beginning with “S.”

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I was honored to suggest that a puppy be named in honor of my late brother Kyle, whose nickname was Spike. My brother had paralysis and used a wheelchair for many years. And now I'm proud to have Spike, a Canine Companions puppy, by my side, learning how to become a future assistance dog for someone with a disability.

For CCI dogs, each puppy’s name is more than just a name — it’s also a specific command meaning to turn his focus on me, his handler, and to listen for a subsequent command.

One of Spike's first tasks is learning to respond to his name, so that his attention is squarely on his owner.

One of Spike's first tasks is learning to respond to his name, so that his attention is squarely on his owner.

Spike started hearing his name at just a few weeks old, but he is still learning what it means. And right now, he loves to hear it because it’s often followed with a delicious treat. (Nothing beats a piece of kibble, right?)

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Want to know how you can teach your puppy or adopted dog their new name?

The trick is to use food, movement, or noise to encourage the puppy to look at you when you say its name — then immediately praise the pup when it does.

Be sure to give the pup plenty of praise when upon completing a command.

Be sure to give the pup plenty of praise when upon completing a command.

To start, the puppy only needs to focus on you for a split second. As it improves, delay giving the reward until it holds its attention on you for a second or two. Gradually increase the time until your pup can hold attention on you, reliably, for a few seconds at a time.

As Spike learns new commands, he’s going to be hearing his name a whole lot. Older dogs from Canine Companions will even wait until their name is called before doing any command, especially when in a group. How cool is that?

Right now, Spike is mastering making eye contact when he hears his name, and it’s just doggone cute to see his little face look up at me, ready for whatever adventure we're planning next.

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For more information about Canine Companions for Independence, visit CCI.org.