How to train your dog to speak in 3 steps

shutterstock_100369028Training your dog to speak (or bark) on command is fun, easy, and impressive. It addition to being fun, it can also be a very useful alert tool for your family. Teach your dog or pup to speak in no time with these three simple steps! For more fun dog tricks, try this tutorial on teaching your buddy to perform eight adorable tricks.

Step 1: Learn to be quiet first

In order for your dog to learn to speak, they have to learn to be quiet, which is a remarkably useful trick on its own (especially for dog owners with barkier breeds, such as terriers.) Choose a command such as “quiet” or “hush” and use that word consistently. Let’s use “quiet” now as an example. Make sure you have a handful of treats in your pocket.

Step 1A: Wait for your dog to bark. Once he does, capture his attention with a sound such as a whistle or clap.

Step 1B: Once you’ve captured his attention, say “Quiet” and give him a treat.

Step 1C: Repeat 2-3 times. Try this again for a few days in a row to make sure that he’s mastered the “quiet” command.

If being quiet is just one of the issues you’re tackling with your pup, try this course on polite puppy training techniques.

Step 2: Initiating the “speak” command

Once your dog has mastered “Quiet”, you can start on the “Speak” command. For this, you’ll need one of his toys and treats. Stand or kneel in front of you dog, who should be in a sitting position. Make sure you’ve got your treats on hand and holding it in a position where your dog can see it but can’t reach it.

Step 2A: Get your dog’s attention. In a happy tone, say your dog’s name and show him the toy, but keep it out of his reach.

Step 2B: Say “Speak” in a firm but excited tone. Give your dog a few seconds to respond, then show him the toy and repeat the command again. Usually, withholding a treat will trigger a bark. If that doesn’t wait, be patient and try other triggers, such as knocking on the wall.

Step 3B: Repeat until he responds with a bark. First small victory! Reward your dog with a treat. Try it again. However, if your dog continues to bark or barks more than once or twice, don’t give him a treat. Stop his barking with the “quiet” command. Prompt him to speak again, clicking and rewarding only when he barks once or twice in response to your command. Go back and forth between the commands as needed to allow your dog to fully understand what that the speak command calls for one to two barks but not constant barking.

Note: If you prefer using a clicker, make sure you have the clicker, one of his toys, and some treats on you. Once situated, trigger your dog to bark by waving a favorite toy in front of the dog’s face but not allowing him to obtain it. Other ways to trigger your dog to bark is by knocking on a wall or door, or by withholding a treat from the dog. Once the dog barks, click the device and give your dog a treat.

Step 3: Reinforcement of the “speak” command gradually without treats

Once it seems that your dog is responding to every “Speak” command, you can start reinforcing the process with fewer treats and in different locations.

3A: Gradually start practicing the command without showing the toy or treat. If your dog doesn’t respond, reintroduce the toy or treats and then slowly start phasing it out again. In place of treats, give lots of verbal praise and even a pat on the head.

3B: Continue working with your dog until he can bark right on command. Single or double bark and no more.

3C: You can now train your dog to “Speak” at other opportunities. Once your dog has mastered the “speak” command, you can teach her to bark at other specific cues, such as a knock at the door or the sound of the doorbell to alert you.

3D: Enlist volunteers! Have a family or friend  go outside and knock on the door. They can give the command to “Speak” and if he does, reward your dog with a treat, click, or verbal praise.

3E: Try other locations! Take your dog to the park or to a friend’s house with plenty of distraction. Try the command first when he’s sitting so that he’s fully alert. Then you can progress to selecting random times to ask him to “Speak”! Be sure to have treats on hand to reward him.

Now that your dog has mastered “speak”, you can move on to intermediate to advanced tricks. Try to interactive course on over 25 tricks for you and your best friend!