White woman with an open mouth sitting on a couch next to a Cocker Spaniel dog who is standing on the couch

How To Train Your Dog To Speak

So, how do you train your dog to speak?

Well, it’s actually pretty easy because barking comes naturally to dogs.

Unlike other tricks, it’s not an “unnatural” behavior that has to be learned.

That said, my Boxer mix Buzz is really good at it, and today, I’ll share how I taught him the speak command -and also how to be quiet!

How To Train Your Dog To Speak…And Shush!

How to train your dog to speak and shush

Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated in 2023. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you. 

Train Your Dog To Speak Using A Natural Behavior

As I mentioned above, barking is a natural dog behavior that works in your favor when you’re teaching your dog how to “speak”.

All that’s left to do is teach your pup to associate a cue with the barking when you want to trigger it.

To to do this, wait for your pup to bark and the moment he does, add the command you want to associate with this behavior.

I chose “speak”, but you can choose any word you want! 

The trick to conditioning your dog to a specific cue is to use it consistently.

So, every single time your dog barks, say “speak” or whatever word you decide on.

YouTube video of Boxer mixes Missy and Buzz showing off their speak command

Reward & Praise Your Dog For A Job Well Done

It’s important to reward your pup with a motivator when they obey your command.

High value food rewards work well for some dogs, but others prefer some TLC or a favorite toy in return for a job well done.

Also, don’t forget to praise him verbally.

For example, you can say something like “Yes! Good speak”. 

My girl Missy does very well with food rewards, and Buzz will do anything in exchange for a chuck it ball:

Just don’t forget to slowly wean your pup(s) off the treats & toy rewards.

We want to avoid pet obesity at all cost!

Plus, you want them to obey your command at all times, including when food or toys are not available!

Also, remember to adjust your dog(s)’s food allowance at mealtimes if you’re handing out a lot of treats during daily training sessions.

What To Do If Your Dog Demand Barks For Treats Or Toys

Now, if your dog starts to demand bark for treats or toys, withhold the rewards and walk away instead.

If you ignore this behavior, he’ll learn that he only gets rewarded for speaking when you ask him to!

Patience & Consistency

It takes a dog several weeks to learn to reliably obey a new command, so don’t expect wonders overnight.

As always, patience and discipline are key.

Dogs will sense an impatient human and not respond well to their negative energy.

They will not want to cooperate, which will likely turn into frustration on your end.

But frustration will likely lead to anger and ultimately to a lack of motivation.

Don’t enter this vicious cycle!

If you’re not in the mood for training, don’t start a training session.

Wait for your mood to change to happy & upbeat, then focus your entire attention and energy on your pup in training.

How Do I STOP My Dog’s “SPEAKING”?

Now, it’s great to have your dogs perform the “speak” command whenever you ask them to, but how do you get an overly excited dog to STOP “speaking”?

I didn’t want to accidentally teach the pups to demand-bark for treats or attention, so I incorporated the “quiet” command in their “speak” training.

While the pups were busy chewing their treat reward and consequently QUIET (minus the munching sounds!), I added the “quiet, sssh” command.

Additionally, I placed my right pointer finger to my lips.

After I gave both commands (“speak”, then “quiet”), I’d walk away or distract them by doing something other than training to avoid any potential demand-barking.

Only Give Your Dog The Speak Command If You’re Ready To Follow Through

Now, I learned one extremely important lesson from my basic obedience instructor Rhonda.

She taught me to NEVER give a command unless I’m prepared and ready to enforce it.

So when you’re tired and relaxing on the couch after a long day at work, don’t give your dog a command UNLESS you’re willing to get up from the couch and follow through with it.

If you don’t follow through every single time you give a command, your dog will learn that obedience is optional.

I found myself giving a command like a “down/sit/come” while I was comfortably lounging on the couch and not getting an immediate response from the pups. 

I’d remember with a deep SIGH that “oh yeah, I HAVE to follow through now” and got up to make sure the pups followed my command.

Although I really didn’t want to give up my warm spot on the couch..

So I quickly learned that if I didn’t want to move from my comfy couch, I shouldn’t give commands.

It’s that simple.

Note: Make sure that everyone in your dogs’ family is aware of the training rules and on the same page!

Never Repeat Your Command

Which brings us to the next, equally important part of the training equation.

When you train your dog to speak, only say the command once.

I learned the concept of verbalizing a command only once when I read Patricia McConnell’s The Other End Of The Leash.

The other end of the leash book my Patricia McConnell

My basic obedience instructor Rhonda made the same point!

After all, we want our pups to “speak” the first time we tell them to, and not after a frustrated 10th time.

How To Train Your Dog To Speak: Bottom Line

This dog trick is very easy to teach because you can use a natural behavior your dog is born with!

Remember to practice regularly and to associate the same cue word with the behavior.

Use whatever motivates your dog to perform the “speak” command. This can be a tasty treat, a favorite toy, or your verbal praise.

Remember not to rely on food rewards only to avoid putting on unnecessary calories.

If your dog starts to demand bark for food rewards, toys or your attention, ignore them and walk away.

Did you train your dog how to speak? Which motivators work for them? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below this blog post!

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Barbara launched her blog K9sOverCoffee in 2014 and has been feeding her dogs raw dog food since 2015. As a former professional dog walker, she’s passionate about balancing species-appropriate exercise with healthy dog nutrition. Barbara is raw dog food nutrition certified from “Dogs Naturally Magazine” and the author of several e-books about minimally processed, balanced raw dog food.






20 responses to “How To Train Your Dog To Speak”

  1. Dolly the Doxie Avatar
    Dolly the Doxie

    I don’t think mom wants me to learn how to “speak” even though it took me almost a year to start barking. I haven’t stopped since. Love Dolly

    1. Barbara Rivers Avatar

      BOL, Dolly! You just have to incorporate the “quiet” command as well ~ I’m sure your bark has great burglar deterrent potential 😉

  2. Slimdoggy Avatar

    That quiet command is more important than the speak command 🙂

    1. Barbara Rivers Avatar

      Hehe, slimdoggy, you speak wise words!! 😉

  3. Lauren Miller Avatar

    Great post!! Both of my girls know speak! 😀 Zoe is actually a huge talker and she makes all sorts of funny noises. It’s hilarious.

    1. Barbara Rivers Avatar

      Thank you, Lauren! Great to hear that there are K9s out there who know the “speak” command 🙂

  4. MyDogLikes Avatar

    Great tips!! Harley knows how to speak, but needs to be revved up a little. We say speak and its a whisper, say it again and a little bit louder… haha

    1. Barbara Rivers Avatar

      Thank you:-) Go, Harley!! Sometimes our pups make a sound that’s more of a “mumble” than a “speak” ~ been trying to differentiate between the 2 commands, but without much success so far 😉

  5. Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats Avatar

    Great advice. But I still think teaching “speak” is a lot easier than teaching “quiet.”

    –Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats.

    1. Barbara Rivers Avatar

      Thanks ~ Yes, I agree with you on that one!!!

  6. Elaine Avatar

    This sure beats barking at your dog to teach him to speak, lol!

    I taught Haley to speak and she’ll speak loud at home, but she isn’t a fan of public speaking. Let me explain, haha…It’s really hard to get her to obey the command when we’re outside away from home. I think it has something to do with not wanting to alert other dogs or animals to her presence.

    1. Barbara Rivers Avatar

      Nice job! There are so many distractions when out in public, so obeying a command becomes more challenging as opposed to being in the comfort of your home. We’ve been practicing the command on walks, too, but have noticed that our barking pups have started barking concerts in the neighborhood…sooooooo, we’re trying to be more conscious of our surroundings before giving that command 😉

  7. Gilligan Avatar

    I’d echo what others have said about the Quiet command being probably more important here… certainly it’s the only one my parents are focusing on these days! But I wonder if making “Speak” a routine command might help me find an outlet for my barking that would be pleasing to them, or would make me want to bark more if they treat me for it? I can definitely see myself going the “demand-bark” route.

    1. Barbara Rivers Avatar

      Well, the trick is to not enforce a demand-barking routine, that’s why consistency & discipline are so important during training sessions. We were comfortable teaching our pups the “Speak” command as a fun trick since they aren’t problem barkers ~ if I had a dog with barking issues, I definitely wouldn’t enforce them either!

  8. jan Avatar

    We always found the “shhhh, quiet” command harder than the “speak” command. Glad to read that they should be taught together as we found out the hard way.

    1. Barbara Rivers Avatar

      We got that tip from a dog trainer, and it’s worked out great 😉

  9. Gracie Lu Shih Tzu Avatar

    Great tips! We will have to practice this… Mama wants to teach me to speak , especially after watching all these Youtube videos of doggies barking “I wooove you” to their humans.

    1. Barbara Rivers Avatar

      Glad you like them ~ have fun with the training! Remember, no demand-barking ;-))

  10. Sand Spring Chesapeakes Avatar

    My gang barks to much as it is so they don’t need a command for it, I could teach it to gman thou as he is a quite dog. Great training exercise.

    1. Barbara Rivers Avatar

      Thanks 🙂 It’s a fun one for sure!

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