Learning how to teach a dog to speak can be a very useful tool in any dog owner’s arsenal. Here’s everything you need to know.
How to Teach a Dog to Speak
Here are the 5 simple steps you’ll need to follow when teaching your dog how to speak.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.