If you are a dog parent, you know that it can be useful to teach your dog basic commands. Some commands can help them learn obedience, such as “sit” and “stay.” Others can be fun tricks, such as “roll over” and “shake.” One trick that can serve both of these purposes is “speak.” This means teaching your dog to bark on command.
“Speak” is both a party trick and a useful command. You can teach your dog to bark when they need to go outside, but it can also be taught in conjunction with the command of “quiet.”
Some dog breeds love to bark more than others, but it’s not always a welcomed behavior. By teaching your dog when the appropriate time to bark is, you can improve your mutual trust and communication with your pet.
Read on as we review the basics of how to train a dog to bark on command:
Dog Training: Why Teach the Speak Command
“Speak” usually isn’t the first command you teach your dog; you may want to master “lie down” and “stay” before “speak,” but it’s still just as valuable.
When dogs realize their humans can understand their vocalizations, they might be more inclined to find ways to communicate with you through their voice. With a single, polite “woof,” your dog might be saying they need to go potty, want dinner, or that they want to go play.
So while teaching your dog this relatively easy trick is impressive to show off at the dog park, it also can serve a bigger purpose — improved communication. When it comes to the training process, the more you communicate with your dog, the stronger your bond will be.
1. Teach “Quiet” First
Before you can teach your dog to speak, you will need to teach them to quiet down. Most dogs have no issue with barking — they know how to do it, and they sure love to at times! Getting your pup to quiet down when they won’t stop barking is the real trick. By teaching them “quiet,” you are giving them the space to learn “speak.”
To teach the quiet command, first, we must mark the behavior. Like with all training sessions, use positive reinforcement. Reward the silent moment in between the barking. If you are clicker training, mark the quiet moment with a clicker or saying “yes” followed by a high-value treat. Once your pup is doing well with this, you can then work on the verbal command.
When your dog is silent in between barking sessions, repeat the word “quiet” followed by a treat. This will teach them that the word “quiet” is associated with the silence in between the barks and is the ideal and encouraged behavior.
2. Attach the Quiet Command to the Behavior
Next, slowly move the verbal cue back in time so that you begin saying it closer and closer to the moment that they are quiet rather than after they have stopped the vocalization. Soon, you are saying the cue and your dog is following up by being silent.
Just like with potty training, repetition is key. As long as you continue to reward the behavior and work on this cue, your dog will have it down in no time.
3. Prompt Your Dog To Bark
Some dogs don’t need to be prompted to bark; others may need a bit of encouragement. For this command, you must first motivate your dog to bark. You know your dog best — whether they tend to bark over a treat, a toy, or when they run around with the zoomies, help get them excited enough to vocalize
4. Mark the Bark and Reward
Once they let out a “woof,” mark the bark with the command “speak” and heap praise upon their perfect, fluffy heads. Generally, the goal is to elicit and praise a single bark, not excessive barking. When your pup gives one bark, stop the prompting at this point and reward.
Tip 1: Have a Reward Available
When moving on to the “speak” command, it’s essential to have tasty treats available when your dog behaves the way you want. Dogs don’t always understand praise as a reward, especially when you give them love and pets randomly for being a good dog.
Dog treats are an easy reward for canines to understand because it’s not usually something they get unless they are doing something right. Pick a treat your dog really enjoys, such as soft training treats, for an extra high-value reward. Some dogs even get really excited by a favorite toy. If you have one toy you use during training, your dog is more likely to comply with what you want.
Rewarding our dogs helps them understand which behaviors are encouraged and which are not. Your dog wants to learn how to impress you, so training can be really enjoyable for them! When there’s a treat or toy involved as a reward, this becomes even more like a fun game they get to play with their favorite person.
Tip 2: Involve Hand Signals
Another way to teach the speak command is to use hand signals. Dogs don’t typically know what we are saying most of the time (even if they understand the tone), but they can usually understand our body language, including hand signals.
You can make your own visual command up if you’d like, but a common “speak” signal amongst dog trainers is: start with an open hand, palm facing the dog, and then close your four fingers around your thumb.
Keep using the hand signals, rewards, and verbal cues at the same time so that you can reinforce that all of them mean the same thing. Soon you will be able to communicate with your dog in multiple ways, which can only benefit you and your pup and continue to build your relationship.
AskVet’s Tricks of the Trade
When going through the training process, either with a new puppy or senior dog, having tips and tricks available to you as a resource can make the process a lot easier.
With AskVet, you can get help with building behavioral plans and ask any question you might have about the training process to our Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™ (CPLC). Our team of animal experts will work with you to create a plan for your pup and learn more about their overall lifestyle and behavior.
Training isn’t always easy, but you can get help through AskVet! When you join AskVet and schedule your first appointment, you can start asking any question you may have about your animal family members — dogs, cats, horses, lizards, fish — basically everyone.
Our team of CPLCs™ and veterinarians are available 24/7 and are here to help make the pet parent process easier. You don’t have to do all of the heavy lifting on your own when teaching your pup about when — and when not to — bark. Your pet will thank you (and so might your neighbors)!