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How to teach your dog to ‘speak’

So, you want to teach your dog to speak? This is a useful command; it’s a great party trick and can even pave the way for your dog ‘speaking’ to you to warn you that they need the loo.

While you’re teaching your dog to speak, it’s a good idea to teach them ‘Quiet’ too. The two commands work well together, and the training processes are very similar.

In this article, we’ll cover how to teach a dog to speak, as well as to be quiet. Some experts recommend teaching Speak first, then Quiet; others recommend doing it the other way around. The final decision is yours – you know your dog best, after all!

You will need:

A suitable area of the house, plus roughly 10 minutes a day to dedicate to training. Get yourself stocked up with tasty, healthy treats too.

Teach your dog to speak, step-by-step

  1. Get them barking – this may involve play, knocking at the door, or even doing a funny dance.
  2. When they bark, present them with a treat.
  3. As this is going on, name the behaviour. It helps to use a simple word like ‘Speak’ or ‘Bark’. Say it in a clear, positive voice – not too loud and not too quiet.
  4. Repeat this action until you feel comfortable, then try using the ‘Speak’ command when your dog is quiet.
  5. Continue rewarding barks with treats until your dog is a dab hand at it, then try phasing out the treats.
  6. As your dog gets more comfortable, practice the command in different areas of the house… and outside.

dog mid-bark

Teaching your dog to be quiet

You may prefer to start with this – dogs bark naturally, after all – or you may prefer to have them barking on command first and teach ‘Quiet’ afterwards. Either way, the process is similar, with some important alterations:

  1. Get them barking again – you can use the command or the play method (as above).
  2. Wait until they stop, and reward this behaviour with a treat.
  3. Once they’re silent (and as you’re rewarding them), name this behaviour. ‘Quiet’ works well, or ‘Stop’, ‘Enough’ etc.; as long as the command isn’t too similar to your dog’s name or another phrase, it should work.
  4. As above, repeat this until your dog is comfortable, then begin using the command before the treat, rewarding your pooch when they play along.
  5. Phase out the treats, practice the two commands in conjunction with each other, and in lots of different places.

And remember…

Always use positive reinforcement and reward-based training. Never scold or punish your dog. If they’re struggling to remember, start the training process from scratch.

Train little and often, ideally for around 10 minutes a day. Keep things fresh by training during play time, and mixing in other commands such as ‘Sit’ or ‘Lie down’.

Is your dog barking too often? Read How to stop a dog from barking or consider having a chat with your vet, who may recommend a qualified behaviourist.

Need more info?

For more help and advice on teaching your dog to speak, to be quiet or any other aspect of their wellbeing, have a chat with your local vet.

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.