How to Teach a Dog to Speak – a Fun, Entertaining Skill!
by Jessi Larson
Learning how to teach a dog to speak can be a very useful tool in any dog owner’s arsenal.
Speaking on demand is fun and endearing trick, and it can also be a useful tool for protecting your home against intruders.
Furthermore, teaching your dog how to speak, and also how to be quiet, can better control the urge to bark constantly.
So if you’re wondering how to teach a dog to speak, read on for our best tips on the process.
Make Sure Your Dog Can Stay Quiet
If you’re teaching your dog how to speak, it helps to start with a baseline skill of staying quiet.
If your dog has a tendency to bark constantly, you’ll likely need to teach this skill before moving on to teaching your dog to speak.
Here’s how to go about it:
- Do something that usually makes your dog bark. This can involve somebody working with you to ring the doorbell, or whatever you think will work for your pup.
- After the dog barks, try to get their attention by asking them to sit. Or you could use a tasty treat or a toy as an incentive.
- Reward your dog with the toy or treat after they stop barking.
- Go through these steps again, and each time, extend how long you ask your dog to hold their silence.
- When you’re getting your pup to stay quiet for a few minutes straight, add a signal word such as “quiet,” or “shhh,” and say it firmly when your dog starts barking.
- Give the treat or reward when your dog obeys and practice the command until you feel your dog has a handle on it.
How to Teach a Dog to Speak
Now that you’ve successfully established staying quiet, you can move on to teaching your dog how to speak on command.
Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:
1. Have Your Reward Ready
It’s important to have a reward ready to go along with your command as your dog starts to bark. This is called marking the behavior.
Just be sure it’s a toy or a treat that your dog loves so they’re motivated to complete the action you ask of them.
2. Get Your Dog to Bark
Depending on your dog’s vocal tendencies and personality, this may be easy or difficult. The idea is to get your dog excited enough to provoke a bark.
If all your attempts fail, you can try jumping around your dog to get them to start barking in excitement.
As you might imagine, most dogs will respond fairly quickly to this behavior.
3. Mark the Behavior
Like we mentioned, marking the behavior means identifying and rewarding your dog for doing something you want – in this case, barking.
To do this, have your reward ready and wait for your dog to bark. As soon as it does, say “speak” and reward your pup with a toy or treat. If you’re using a clicker for training, you’ll want to use it as soon as you hear the bark.
Continue to do this until your dog starts to associate the word “speak” with barking and a reward, and can “speak” on your command.
4. Incorporate a Silent Hand Signal
When you’re successfully getting your dog to bark on a verbal command, you can also introduce a hand command.
Try starting with an open palm toward the dog and closing your four fingers against the thumb, mimicking a barking mouth motion.
Many dog owners and trainers use this signal for “speak,” but you can also choose any signal that works for you and your dog.
Once your dog has started to associate this hand signal with “speak,” you should continue to use it along with, or instead, of the verbal signal to practice the command.
Additional Tips for Success
Figuring out how to teach a dog to speak is a multi-step process and takes a bit of practice.
As you work on this skill, here is some extra advice for successfully teaching your dog how to speak on command.
Don’t Reward Unwanted Barking
Since barking is such an intrinsic behavior for dogs, offering rewards for it can lead to excessive barking.
To avoid this slippery slope, make sure you’re only rewarding your dog’s barks when you ask for them.
Stay consistent, and your dog will soon learn that treats only come with the signal.
Also, be aware of your noise level when teaching your dog how to bark if you have neighbors around you.
One way to cut down on the noise is to reward your dog after barking once so they don’t associate the command with continuous barking.
You might also want to keep your sessions short, especially if you live in an apartment complex or in close proximity to others.
How to Use Your New Command
Usually, dog owners use the “speak” command as a trick to show off in front of friends and family, but there are also other uses for it that may come in handy.
For example, teaching your dog to speak when they have to go outside to take care of business can save you from unnecessary guesswork and accidents.
Or, in case a stranger approaches the house, you can teach your dog to alert you or dissuade them from entering by barking.
Final Thoughts on How to Teach a Dog to Speak
Now that you know how to teach a dog to speak, you can finally have the conversations you’ve always wanted with your four-legged friend.
With a bit of practice and plenty of positive reinforcement, your dog will know how to “speak” anytime you ask.
Be ready with a tempting reward, and stay consistent so you don’t unintentionally reinforce excessive barking.
You can also extend this fun party trick to other aspects of your daily life and even help protect your home.
Watch a Training Video
As you learn how to teach a dog to speak, watching a training video is always another great learning tool.
Popular dog trainer Zak George has put together a video on the topic that is definitely worth checking out.
George brings a positive, fun and informational style that has earned him millions of fans. (After watching this video, you’ll definitely know why!)
After checking out this tutorial on how to teach a dog to leave it, take a look at his YouTube channel for a variety of other awesome training videos.
Extra Words of Advice
As you work on how to teach a dog to speak, you might find yourself getting frustrated or impatient. Heck, this could happen when teaching your dog any sort of new skill!
If you find your patience is wearing thin, please don’t worry. It’s a completely normal part of the dog training process.
How you react to this stress, however, is what’s important.
Training a dog does require a great deal of patience and persistence. If you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, either take a break entirely and start the training again at a later time or give yourself a quick timeout.
Giving yourself a brief timeout does wonders. Just pause, breathe deep and count to 10. This will recenter you.
Dogs can sense if you’re hyper or angry, so taking a few moments to regroup will make the training process even more successful.
Top Dog Training Books
Figuring out how to teach a dog to speak is just one skill to learn. When you get a dog, it’s important that you take the time to train them thoroughly.
If you put in the work now, the following years will be so much easier, we promise!
There are many different ways to train a dog, including obedience classes, working with a trainer, learning online and so forth.
Another great training method to add to your arsenal: Dog training books!
The following books are tried-and-true favorites recommended by thousands of dog owners. They’ll help you train your dog effectively and provide a solid foundation for how they should act and behave.
When we first got Toby, we spent months working on training, including reading as many books as we could. Believe me, it was exhausting at times.
The result, however, is that he became a well-behaved dog who listened and followed our commands, and that made our lives much easier in the long run.
You saw George’s video above on how to teach a dog to leave it. If you liked his style, grab a copy of his book Dog Training Revolution.
This complete guide to raising a dog covers all the bases for training essentials. Even if you’ve had your dog for a while, you’ll learn new things and pick up tips and tricks you didn’t know before.
We read it when we first got Toby and highly recommend it. There’s a reason this book is a classic!
They bring a calm, cool, confident approach to dog training that results in obedient, well-behaved pups.
Ask any pup parent, and they’ll tell you how messy, frustrating and exhausting it can be to housebreak a dog.
Without a doubt, housebreaking a dog is one of the most challenging parts of owning a pup. If you need help with this process, the book How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days teaches you how to master it in less than a week.
We purchased 101 Dog Tricks for Toby a number of years ago. He had learned basic commands and we were looking for other ways to keep him mentally stimulated.
This book was a great way to find new tricks, provide mental and physical exercises for Toby and bond with him in the process.
From time to time, we still reference this book and find a fun new trick for him to learn.
If you have children in your home, Puppy Training for Kids serves as a great introduction to caring for a dog.
Dogs are a big responsibility, and kids don’t realize all the work that goes into caring for a canine.
With this book, kids will get a better understanding of all the work involved with training and raising a puppy and become more responsible dog owners in the process.
We hope you found this a valuable guide to how to teach a dog to speak.
After you’ve mastered more essential training commands, it’s always fun to teach a dog new tricks, and a pup who can speak on command is entertaining and endearing.