How To's

How-To: Teach Your Dog How to Speak!

Written by Melissa Keen

Barking on command is a cool and surprisingly easy trick to teach your furry friend. While it might seem difficult, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can teach your pup – you just need to know the right techniques!

So how do you teach your dog to “speak”?

Choose Your Reward

Dogs are driven by treats, toys, and fuss – decide which one your dog wants most, and use this as positive reinforcement when your dog does the correct thing. Some dogs are less food driven than others, so a bouncy ball or tug rope may be your treat of choice.

If you’ve chosen to use food, make sure you cut it up onto little bits – giving your dog great big chunks of chicken as a reward for correct behaviour will fill them quickly and they will likely start putting weight on!

Positivity

Use your voice (“yes!”, “good boy!”, “well done!”), or consider using a clicker (these can be bought cheaply on eBay) to reinforce positive behaviour. The clicker, or your positive phrase, should be used in conjunction with their treat; try offering the treat and clicking/speaking at the same time, so they learn to expect their treat at the sound of the clicker.

Choose Your Command Word

Choose the word you would like to associate with the command (“speak!”, “bark!”, “talk!”) Consider using a hand gesture to use alongside the chosen word – dogs are visual and some react faster to hand gestures than words.

Reward a Bark

It’s important your dog knows that they will only be rewarded for barking when asked to bark – you don’t want your dog barking incessantly for treats!

To get them to bark, get them focused on you. Try showing them the treat (you can hide it in your hand and let them sniff), then hide the treat behind your back. Your dog may turn their head from side to side in confusion, or they may yawn (a signal they are attempting to work out what you want them to do). When they look set to bark, say your chosen work just as they bark, then use your clicker/positive phrase and give them the treat. Do this over and over until your dog understands.

If they show signs of boredom or get too excited, give up your training session for now and come back to it another time. You need them to be engaged and ready to learn.

And that’s it! Your dog should be speaking on command in no time.

About the author

Melissa Keen

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