Many dogs respond to their name when called. But - do they really know their name refers to them, or do they just respond to a familiar sound?
Well, here’s the answer:
Your dog may know and respond to his name, but he most likely doesn’t think of it as himself.
Dogs simply don’t have the same sense of self as humans.
Say, for example, that your dog’s name is Max.
Max doesn’t know that “Max” means his identity as a dog. He just knows that whenever he hears this “Max” sound, it’s often paired with certain events happening.
Maybe it’s dinner time, time to go on a walk, or it’s just you giving him attention. For example: “Come here, Max.”.
Max will then respond to the sound “Max” because he learned that this sound means that something (hopefully positive) will likely happen.
It’s classical operant conditioning.
Dogs don’t just use the sound of a word to determine its meaning. They also use body language cues and deductive reasoning to infer what the word you are saying means. The way you say things also matters just as much as the actual word.
Here’s a fun example: