How do animals learn their names? How they react to their names?

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How do animals learn their names?

Although, it may seem like the animal has learned his or her name, but in reality, the animal has learned to respond when they hear the sound of their names by relating the sound to itself.

The thing is that, they do learn to recognize the sound pattern and the way their name sounds when called upon.

For them, the sound of their name is what makes them think that they are being called and so they do respond to the name, but they don’t recognize themselves as the only one who is given that name.

Accordingly, if you go near an unknown animal and call it by a name, it is very much sure that the animal won’t respond.

But, if you have a pet animal, and you have given it a name which it has been hearing from birth to date, then it’s pretty much sure that the animal is much more likely to respond to that name.

When they learn their names, then they respond to their names just as sound patterns that are related to them and nothing much. And so, they in return, try to form behavior accordingly when someones call upon their name.

Just, for instance, when they are provided with a treat or game or cuddles or anything happy to them after their name is being called for a few times. Then, in such situations, they learn to react and respond to their names after hearing it, as they know that there’s something good they will get after being called with their name.


But, they don’t know what’s the real meaning of a name is. They just know that their name is a beneficial sound that will bring happiness to them, and so they do respond to it after hearing.

As for such reasons only, positive reinforcements such as cuddles and treats teaches the animal to come to the owner whenever they hear their name.

Similarly, if the animal learns that they will be punished or scolded or will be treated unhappily from the past instances with their owners, then, they can negatively respond after hearing their names.

Just for example: If the animal hears the sound of its name when it’s trying to steal food left in the kitchen, then it can run away as soon as it hears its name by learning from its past instances.

What is Learned behavior in animals?

Learned behavior in animals is a kind of innate behavior that the animals have learned or taught themselves after their birth by reacting and interacting with the environment and its components.

Learned behavior is very much important for both wild animals and pet animals. Wild animals learn specific and new ways to survive, while the pet animals learn from the training held by their owners.

Habituation, Imprinting, Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning, Problem-solving behavior, and all others are the types of learned behavior.

Animals learning their names is a type of Classical Conditioning & Operant Conditioning of their Learned behaviors. Let’s know about each of these two in detail below.

1. Learned Behavior by Classical Conditioning

In classical conditioning, a new stimulus is associated with a pre-existing response through the repeated pairing of new and previously known stimuli.

In classical conditioning, a response already associated with one stimulus is associated with a second stimulus to which it had no previous connection.

For example: If you call a new pet dog with its new given name every time you serve it a meal, it will soon learn to respond to its name after a few days, as a way of thinking that there’s a meal for it after hearing the name. This is a learned behavior.

It has been seen that, if you provide a meal to your pet when it’s hungry, then it’s likely that it will salivate, or drool, in response to the sight or smell of food. That’s the unconditioned response.

But, when you will call it by a new name which it had never heard of before when serving it the food, and you repeat such action for a few days while serving it the meal. Then, the animal will learn to relate its name call with something good (like the meal) to come. This is a conditioned response.

2. Learned Behavior by Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning, is a method of learning (learned behavior) by animals that is due to the rewards and punishments they got after performing an action or behavior.

In simple words, unlike classical conditioning that depends on stimulus-response pair, in operant conditioning whenever an organism performs a behavior or an intermediate step on the way to the complete behavior it is given a reward or a punishment. That’s how it learns.

For example: If your pet dog knows that you will punish it after it gets caught stealing food from the kitchen, then it will probably run away if you call its name while it is going to steal the food.

As, during the previous instances, your pet dog was punished when it was caught stealing after calling its name. So, for this time, it has learned that stealing will be punishable and so it will flee quickly, as soon as possible, after getting the sound of its name.

Now again, for instance, you might give your dog a biscuit or a cuddle every time it sits, rolls over, or refrains from barking, or when it comes nearby after calling its name. This will cause it to learn its name and other actions.

How long does it take for an animal to learn its name? (Answered with reference to Pet Dogs & Cats)

Now, this answer depends on the nature of the dog or cat and the type of training provided by the owner.

In general, it has been seen that the animal (dog or cat) will learn to respond to its name within a week or two, if the particular animal is called upon regularly with the same name and then giving it a meal, cuddle, hug, a game, or other happy things to do.

It is also to be noted that, the dog or cat with no name won’t give much attention to its owner when called upon, as compared to a dog or cat with a loving and caring name.

If the owner starts to call the baby dog and cat with their new names when they are between 6 to 12 weeks old, then most probably, they will start to learn and recognize their new names.

And when they will get to 13 weeks old they will start to respond after hearing the name very well.

It has been also noted that pet cats do most of their learning before they are 12 weeks old. While pet dogs do most of their learning when they are anywhere between 6 to 12 weeks old.

So, How to teach your pet dog and cat their names fast?

To do this, take your pet to a quiet area of the house where you and your pet are only present.

While your pet is not looking at you, then you must say your pet’s name in a very bright and happy tone.

Then, as soon as your pet turns to look at you, immediately give your pet a treat with a cuddle.

Repeat this for 7 to 10 days and it will soon learn its name within 14 to 15 days, and so will start responding when called upon by its name.

How do animals react when they hear their names?

Animals can react either positively, or negatively, or they can show no reaction at all when they hear their names.

When they react positively after hearing their names, then they can come close to their owners. They do so because they know that by doing so they will get a treat, or cuddle, or a hug, or love, or any other pleasant things from their owner.

For example: If your pet dog knows that it is lunchtime, then it will probably wait for the owner to call its name. And then, it will show a positive response by going near its owner to have the meal after the name is being called upon. This is by reacting positively.

When they react negatively hearing their names, they choose to run away or bark aggressively towards their owners. They do this because they know that in that particular instance if they go near to their owners then they may be punished, or can be treated unhappily.

For example: If your pet dog knows that it will get a punishment for stealing food or for going out of the boundary gate. Then also, if in case, it still tries to steal the food or go out of the gate, it will probably run or flee away from the site pretending that it hasn’t done anything after hearing its name being called upon by the owner. This is by reacting negatively.

When the animal shows no reaction, then this means that the animal wouldn’t have heard its name being called upon, or it is just ignoring its owner due to some unknown/known reasons.

Many animals like some notorious cats are there that certainly know their name, and know that it can be called to denote playtime and food time. But then also, sometimes it has also been seen that they will ignore their owners after their name has been called many times.

For example: If you call upon your dog and don’t provide them with anything. In simple words, you just call your dog and ignore it for a few times continuously. Then, chances are high that it will simply ignore your next name call.

What’s in a name? Is calling an animal with the animal’s name a better way of communication?

The name of an animal is the sound pattern and vibration that let them think that there’s something good or bad that is coming the next in relation to them after they have heard their name being called upon.

After the animal has successfully learned its name, then it will probably react to it either positively or negatively or by simply ignoring it.

All of these can happen either as a voluntary response or as an involuntary response.

And yes, calling an animal with the animal’s name is a better way of communication.

Animals communicate using signals, which can include visual, auditory, or sound-based, chemical-based involving pheromones, or tactile touch-based cues.

So, calling the animal’s name is a type of their auditory signal that stimulates their brain and better helps them by knowing about danger, rewards, punishment, love, etc.

Animals generally communicate with each other using four methods: visual, auditory, tactile and chemical.

Some species rely more on one form of communication over another, however, they all can use various methods to show affection, ward off threats, or attract a mate.

However, when humans want to communicate with animals like their pet dogs, cats, etc. they will often show gestures or make an auditory sound by calling upon the animal’s name.

In fact, it has been seen that calling the animal by it’s name is the best way to establish a human-animal relationship.

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