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!
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.
Reward & Praise 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.
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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