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How To Train Your Dog to Speak or Be Quiet

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Woman playing with her dog Christine Schneider/Cultura/Riser/Getty Images
Teaching your dog to "speak," or bark on command can be fun as well as useful. A barking dog can ward off intruders and alert you to potential danger. Excessive barking can be a huge problem, but teaching the speak / quiet commands can sharpen the natural instinct to bark. With dedication and consistency, you can teach your dog to bark on command AND to be quiet. Different dog trainers and owners have varying techniques, but here is one basic method that works for many dogs.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 10-15 minutes, 1-2 times per day (may take several weeks)

Here's How:

  1. Choose one simple word for the bark command. The word should be easy to remember and used consistently. Good choices: "speak," "bark" or "talk."
  2. Choose one simple word for the quiet command. This word should also be easy to remember and used consistently. Good choices: "enough," "quiet," or "hush."
  3. When your dog barks, briefly acknowledge it by checking for the source (look out the window or door, go to your dog). Then, get her attention with a clap, whistle or similar sound.
  4. Immediately after the barking stops, say your quiet command in a firm, audible and upbeat voice while giving a treat.
  5. Practice the "quiet" command frequently. You can do this anytime she barks, but keep sessions brief.
  6. Once your dog seems to understand "quiet," you can move onto the bark command.
  7. Create a situation that will cause your dog to bark. The best method is to have a friend ring the doorbell or knock on the door. As this occurs, say your speak command in a clear, upbeat voice.
  8. After your dog barks 2-3 times in a row, say "good speak!" in a clear, upbeat voice while giving a treat.
  9. Repeat the speak command process several times until your dog seems to understand.
  10. Once your dog learns "speak" and "quiet" separately, you can use them together - have your dog speak a few times, then tell her to be quiet.

Tips:

  1. Rewards should be immediate and very tasty. You need to make obeying "worth it" to your dog. Small, stinky liver treats or similar goodies work best.
  2. Some people prefer to teach "speak" first, and "quiet" second. Others like to teach them together to begin with. This is your choice - it is about your comfort level, confidence and your dog's ability to learn. Use your best judgment. Dogs with a tendency to become "excessive barkers" might need to learn the quiet command first.
  3. Be patient yet consistent. These commands can take weeks to master for some dogs.
  4. Teach speak only works on dogs that will bark. If you are training a puppy, wait until she develops the ability and desire to bark, otherwise she will become confused. Remember that the Basenji dog breed does not bark.
  5. Clicker Training works very well when teaching the speak/quiet commands.

What You Need

  • A bag of small but delicious dog treats
  • A barking stimulus (like a doorbell or a person to knock on the door)
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