Dogs bark for a number of different reasons, often to alert their pack to the presence of strangers or potential dangers. Too much barking can be an issue, so teaching your dog to ‘speak’ on command can be a big help in helping you to control their barking. In addition to being useful, this is a also a fun command that you can use to impress your friends and family.
In this article, we take a step-by-step look at how to train your dog to bark on command.
Teaching Your Dog The ‘Hush’ Command
It’s something of a paradox, but before you can teach your dog to bark on command, you must first teach him how to be quiet.
Choose an appropriate phrase like “hush!” and use it consistently throughout the training. When your dog starts barking, clap your hands sharply to get his attention. As soon as the barking stops, say ‘hush!’ and reward him with a treat. Practice this command frequently- using it whenever your dog starts barking.
Once you are able to control when your dog stops barking, you’re ready to move on to the next step and control when he starts barking.
Teaching Your Dog The ‘Speak’ Command
To begin with, you’ll need to arrange a situation that will start your dog barking. You’ll know from observation of his behaviour what this is likely to be, though something that often works well is having a friend or family member knock on the door or ring the doorbell.
As soon as your dog starts barking, say ‘speak!’ in an upbeat voice, rewarding him with a treat. Repeat this process several times each day- keeping the sessions brief and productive, until your dog starts to understand the concept. Test it out by giving the ‘speak’ command without anyone ringing or knocking at the door.
When you are confident that your dog understand the command, you can stop his barking by giving the “hush” command and start it by giving the “speak” command again.
Withdraw the Treat Gradually
If your dog is responding well to the “speak” command, it’s time to start slowly withdrawing the treats. You may replace the treats with praises or a pat on the head. Start by practicing the command without showing him the treat first. If this doesn’t work, reintroduce the treat but start to phase it out slowly. Proceed the same way until he gets used to barking on command without a treat in sight.
Continue to reinforce the behaviour with treats, making sure that you also praise your dog each time he does as you ask. As you become more confident that he will respond to the command, you can reduce the frequency with which you treat him. Eventually, remove them completely and simply reward him with your praise.
What Else Can You Cue Barking To?
Once you have thoroughly trained your dog to bark and stop barking on command, you can train him to bark in various scenarios to alert you and your family. For example, you may want your dog to let you know whenever someone knocks on the door. To do this, simply have someone go outside and knock on the door, and give the “speak!” command. With your dog barking, go towards the door, giving him the “hush!” command as you go to open it. After a few practice sessions, your dog should start naturally barking whenever someone knocks at the door.
You can also use the “speak” command as a way to get your dog to let you know he wants to go to the bathroom. Just before you let him outside, give the command phrase, letting him out as soon as he obeys.
Once you have control over when your dog starts and stops barking, you have a wealth of events that you can cue the behaviour to- really just limited by your imagination!
Keep the sessions short. Don’t over-train your dog. Keep the training sessions short, between 5-10 minutes before both of you take a deserved break. Spread out the steps and keep repeating them, as this will gradually reinforce the behaviour over time.
Don’t yell. If you yell commands at your dog, he might think that you are barking along with him, doing very little to stop him barking or worse, causing him to bark louder.
Be consistent. Once you’ve chosen the phrases that you will cue to start and stop barking, stick with them. Make your family members aware of these verbal cues to avoid confusing your dog with strange commands.
Reward, reward, reward. Good performance during training must never go unrewarded. It’s the only way your dog knows that you like his behavior. Instant rewards help him to draw a link between the reward and the behavior he’s rewarded for.