Ami Taylor and Kate Ottley, of Waimate High School, asks :-

Is it true that cats and dogs don't respond to their names, just the sounds at the end of their names?

Kevin Stafford, a veterinarian at Massey University's department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, and who specialises in animal behaviour, responded.

No. Cats and dogs respond to their names but the part of the name to which they respond will vary depending upon the name and how it is pronounced.

Professional dog trainers usually call dogs by short names like Jess or Shep, names which are monosyllabic and are quick and easy to pronounce. Short names like these will sound the same no matter who is using them. When dogs or cats are called long multisyllabic names like Engelbert or Spritzerbeg emphasis may be laid upon any one of the syllables.

Thus a cat called Engelbert may have an owner who emphasises Eng and the cat will respond to the emphasised syllable. However the owners children may emphasise Gel and visitors may call him Bert. Cats will usually learn to adjust to human inconsistencies.

A dog called Spritzerbeg may respond to the emphasis on Spritz, Zer or Beg. Owners often call puppies long names but shorten them because the dog appears to respond better to a short name. Dogs don't speak or understand any human language but they learn to associate specific words or syllables with particular activities. A dog will learn to go to her master when he/she says "Jess, come here" because in the past doing so has resulted in a pet or a kind word or a titbit what is called positive reinforcement.