Teaching your dog how to speak on command can be a beneficial behavior, along with a fun trick. Of course, it’s always best to start with the “quiet” cue, as it’s easy to teach your dog to bark once you’ve put “quiet” on cue. You can also try rewarding your dog for just one bark versus barking non-stop for several minutes (which can get old real quick, as we all know).
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Training Your Dog To Be Quiet
Starting with the quiet cue and ensuring your dog knows how to be quiet when you tell it is always a good idea. While some trainers prefer to teach the two cues together, it all depends on your comfort level, confidence in your training abilities, and how well your dog learns. Ultimately it comes down to your personal judgment. If your dog tends to bark excessively, it may be best to teach them the quiet command first.
Choose one easy word for the quiet order. The cue word needs to be something you won’t forget, only has one to two syllables, and is easily repeatable. Common choices for a cue word include “quiet,” “enough,” and “shush.” Below we list the steps for teaching your dog to be quiet on cue:
- Generate a scenario that you know will cause your dog to bark. For example, you can have somebody knock on the door or ring the doorbell. You may also be able to get your dog extraordinarily excited and happy to the point of barking. Some dogs tend to bark when they see other dogs.
- When your dog does bark, acknowledge the action briefly by checking the source (dramatically look out the window or door while your dog’s attention is on you). Then you can go back to your dog and attract its attention. You can try getting its attention right away by holding up a treat or toy.
- When your dog stops barking, give them the treat or toy.
- Keep repeating these steps, gradually waiting for increasingly long periods of silence each time before you give them the treat.
- After your dog learns how to quiet down a few times, throw in the cue word you chose. When your dog is barking, speak your “quiet” command in a clear, firm, and happy voice while holding up their reward. When your dog stops barking, reward them.
Keep practicing the “quiet” cue as often as possible. You can use the cue anytime your dog barks, but try to keep your training sessions concise.
Teaching Your Dog To Speak
Now that we’ve discussed how to teach your dog to be quiet, it’s time for your furry best friend to learn to speak on command! Below we list out each step of teaching your dog to bark on command:
Have Rewards At Hand
Just like teaching your dog to be quiet, the first part of teaching your dog to bark on command is to have plenty of rewards (like a toy or a treat) ready. Once you get your dog to bark, you immediately let them know to mark the behavior with a command and a reward.
Get Your Dog To Bark
Getting your dog to speak can be a lot easier for dog owners who have vocal pups than those with more quiet dogs. If your dog is vocal, there may be plenty of circumstances when they bark, such as when you grab a favorite toy or open the door. The critical step is to get your dog excited enough to bark. If your dog is tranquil by nature, try running, throwing a toy around, or jumping to get them excited enough to bark.
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Mark The Behavior
The second your dog barks, immediately mark the behavior with a cue word like “speak!” and reward them with a toy, treat, or praise. If you use clicker training on your dog, try and click as soon as you hear your dog bark. Keep on marking and rewarding the behavior until your dog knows how to “speak” on command.
You Can Add In A Hand Signal
After your dog knows the verbal command for “speak” well enough, you can throw in a hand signal as well. One hand signal for “speak” commonly used in dog training begins with an open hand, palm facing the dog, and then repeatedly closing four fingers against the thumb. After your dog has got that command down, keep using your verbal command, hand signal, or a mix of both techniques to strengthen the behavior and teach your dog to speak on command consistently.
Tips For Training “Speak”
Barking is an instinctive behavior for dogs, unlike shaking hands, which is why it can be a bit more challenging to teach. If your dog already barks a lot, the last thing you need is to encourage even more nuisance barking all the time. That’s why some trainers recommend teaching the “quiet” command to your dog first, especially if your dog is particularly vocal. When training your dog, it’s essential only to reward barking when you command your dog to bark, and your dog recognizes the command. Moreover, it would be best if you attempted to capture and mark only a single bark. It’s essential to establish with your dog that “speak” means a single bark and not a barking frenzy.
When teaching this trick, you should be mindful of your neighbors. If you live in an apartment building or close to neighbors, remember that people on the other side of thin walls may not find your dog’s barking as amusing as you do, so keep practice sessions brief and efficient.
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Tips For Long-Term Success
Unless you are specifically working with them and teaching them how to speak using the steps above, never reward your dog for barking. If you reward your dog for barking without asking them to do so (except for step 2 above), you will encourage the kind of excessive, attention-seeking barking nobody wants. Make sure to swiftly click the clicker or tell your dog “yes” after the initial woof, rather than after a crowded succeeding of several barks, because you want them to stop barking immediately. Use positive reinforcement! Try to reward your dog for every correct response when you start to teach them to speak.
Using The “Speak” Command
“Speak” can be an easy, fun trick to amuse your friends and family, but it can also be quite useful. For example, you can teach your dog to speak to let you know they need to go outside to use the bathroom. Also, by teaching “speak” and establishing the command, you can also teach your dog how to “whisper” using some of the techniques we discussed.
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