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It’s a little ironic that many people find barking to be annoying yet think it’s cute if a dog can do it on cue. Irony aside, “speak” is definitely a fun trick that will impress your friends, and there is value in training it.
Not only does trick training provide your dog with enrichment, but in teaching a dog to speak, you can also teach them to be quiet. If you want to learn exactly how to teach your dog to speak and be silent, then keep reading.
Why Teach Your Dog To Speak?
Most people decide to teach their dogs to speak because they think it is a cute or impressive trick to share with friends and family. While this is true, there are some other great reasons to teach a dog to speak.
Firstly, teaching your dog to speak can also help you teach them to be quiet. If you have a dog that never seems to stop barking, then using “speak” to teach “quiet” can be rewarding for both of you.
Secondly, trick training of any kind is beneficial for many reasons. For instance, it can help strengthen the bond between you and your dog and, as a result, have a positive impact on training as a whole.
It also requires your dog to think critically, which is wonderful for their mental enrichment. Not only will your dog get practice with critical thinking, but this type of mental stimulation, especially when paired with exercise, can reduce unwanted behaviors.
Many dogs “act out” because they are bored. Teaching “speak” is often a fun activity for your dog and will help relieve boredom, which can result in a better-behaved pup.
How To Teach Your Dog To Speak
The best and arguably only way to teach your dog to speak is through the use of rewards like treats or play. While you can simply use verbal praise to let your dog know they’ve done something right, a clicker can also be helpful.
Clicker training uses a device (the clicker) to mark behaviors. It helps dogs understand exactly when they have performed the action that will get them a reward. Whether or not you use a clicker is up to you.
The most important aspect of this type of training is not whether or not you use a tool but the type of reward you choose. You need to know what motivates your dog best, whether that be cheese or a squeaky toy.
Your dog should be excited and eager to do whatever they can to get the reward. If they aren’t, you may need to rethink the reward and find something more interesting.
Step 1. Display the Reward
Bring your dog into a room with minimal distractions and put some treats in your hand. You can even give them a treat to show them that you have something desirable. Once your dog knows you have something great, they’ll be eager to perform whatever action it takes to get it.
Step 2. Ignore Unwanted Actions
Once your dog knows you have treats, they’ll likely do all they can to get those treats. They may perform a number of learned actions, such as sitting, laying down, giving high fives, or doing other tricks.
You’ll have to ignore these actions. As cute as they are, they aren’t what you’re looking for. Your dog will most likely give up on those actions and may even get a little frustrated or confused. But this is how they work through the conundrum of figuring out what will get them a treat.
Step 3. Reward Progress
If your dog makes any move to bark, whether it be a change in the shape of their lips or putting their ears back, you should say “yes” or “good dog” (or click) and reward them. You know your dog’s behavior best, so you’ll likely be able to tell when they are thinking about barking.
If you reward them for thinking about barking, it can give them a hint as to what you want and will often lead them to a full-out bark. Don’t be afraid to give them a jackpot reward (lots of treats) the first time they get it right and give you a nice full bark.
If your dog is stuck on giving a low growl or quiet yip rather than a full bark, withhold the reward until they make progress toward a louder bark.
Step 4. Repetition
Once you’ve gotten a clear bark out of your dog, it’s time to work on repetition. If your dog can repeat the action a handful of times, it shows that they understand what you want from them and that they’ll keep doing it for a reward.
Step 5. Add Your Cue
Now you can work on adding in a verbal cue. As your dog is barking, say the cue, “speak.” If you’d like to add a hand signal, you can do this at the same time as your vocal cue.
Though a hand signal is not necessary, studies suggest that dogs are actually better at responding to verbal cues and hand signals paired together than they are at responding to verbal cues alone. Therefore, it may be worth your while to add a hand signal.
Step 6: Test Your Cue
After you have repeatedly had your dog bark and given your cue, it’s time to test your dog and see if they have connected the dots. Say “speak” and see what happens. Hopefully, your dog will bark. If not, you’ll want to go back to step five and work on more repetition.
What If My Dog Won’t Bark?
You’ve been sitting around for 15 minutes; your dog has gone through a number of tricks and behaviors and now lays quietly, staring up at you patiently. They seem to have completely given up on figuring out what you want. So what do you do? How do you get them to bark?
You may need to help induce a bark by doing something that tends to make your dog bark. This might include playing or even doing something like barking at your dog (it sounds silly, but it works for some people!).
Pay attention to your own behavior, too. If you act excited and energetic, then you’re more likely to hype your dog up and get them to bark. This is not the time to be quiet and calm; your dog needs your enthusiasm.
Try to avoid encouraging bad habits, though. If you don’t like it when your dog barks when the doorbell rings, then do not ring the doorbell to induce a bark. Even though we want to teach our dogs to bark on command, we do not want to inadvertently reward unwanted behaviors.
Understand that teaching a dog to speak can require a lot of patience. Unlike skills such as “sit,” you cannot simply lure your dog into doing what you want and then giving a reward. You often just have to wait for your dog to figure things out.
How To Teach Your DogTo Be Quiet
Once your dog understands that barking will get them treats, you may find that they bark continuously or without you asking. However, once you add in your verbal cue and your dog can reliably speak when asked, you should not reward your dog for barking if you did not say “speak.”
Instead, you can use this opportunity to teach your dog to be quiet. The process is quite easy. Simply wait for your dog to stop barking, and then reward them while saying “quiet.” If you’re using a clicker, be sure to mark the silence.
At first, you may need to reward short silences. Just like with “speak,” you should reward progress in order to help your dog better understand what you want. Repetition is important for any skill, so be sure to repeat this process as much as possible.
If you find that your dog only barks once or twice when you say “speak,” but you feel they need more practice with “quiet,” you can induce barking by doing something like ringing the doorbell.
Do not pair this with the “speak” cue; think of it as a separate training activity to teach your dog to stop barking. Once again, you simply wait until they are silent before rewarding them. Repeat this until your dog catches on that silence means treats, and add in the “quiet” cue when they are reliably being quiet.
Speak Is a Fun Trick and a Useful Tool
Trick training is fantastic because it is fun, strengthens the bond between dog and owner, and provides mental enrichment. The great thing about “speak” is that it not only is a crowd-pleaser, but it can also be helpful in teaching your dog how to be quiet on cue. As you can see, it is both a fun trick and a useful training tool.