Caitlin UltimoTraining / Training Tips

How to Teach a Dog to Speak and Be Quiet

As parent parents, we’ve all been there. Someone rings the doorbell or crosses the front lawn and your dog starts barking. Sometimes she won’t stop even if you yell, “Be quiet!”

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can learn how to teach a dog to speak as well as how to train a dog not to bark on command, says Mikkel Becker, a certified dog trainer and the lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets, an educational organization that provides resources for pet professionals and owners. The best way to do this is to train a dog to speak first, and then work on teaching the quiet command.

Before You Begin Training

Prior to starting, it helps to understand why your furball is yapping in the first place.

“Barking is a natural expression dogs use to communicate,” Becker says, “and it’s useful as a way to release stress and tension from the body.”

Some dogs yelp from excitement, while others bark out of fear and anxiety. If your pup is fearful or anxious, it’s best to work on those emotions first, preferably with your vet, a behaviorist or a rewards-based trainer.

The goal is to change the way your pooch feels and foster feelings of happiness and relaxation when confronted by someone at the door. Once you do that, the excessive barking might fade away naturally as a result.

While learning how to train a dog not to bark, Becker advises not to yell at your dog to shut up. She says that when you yell or keep repeating words like “shut up,” your pup doesn’t understand. Instead, she’s more likely to think you’re as excited or as upset as she is and join in the commotion. Therefore, whenever you teach your dog the quiet command or to speak on command, it’s important to stay calm.

Remember, too, that anytime you request or expect something from your pooch, you set her up for success by making the behavior pay off so she’s more likely to repeat it, says Becker, co-author of the forthcoming book “From Fearful to Fear Free.” For most dogs, the biggest reward comes in the form of dog treats.

So grab your pup’s favorite treats—ideally a small one, like Blue Buffalo’s Blue Bits, so as not to overfeed your dog—and let’s learn how to teach a dog to speak.

How to Train a Dog to Speak

Step 1. Find something that will set off barking

Before you teach the cue “speak” or “talk,” find a surefire way to get your pup yapping. Ideas include using a recording of other dogs barking or of a siren.

If your smart dog knows it’s a recording, try standing at the door and knocking on it behind your back; or simply bark or howl yourself.

“You’ll be surprised at just how many dogs naturally join in,” Becker says.

Step 2. Give a cue.

Use a word like “speak” or “bark,” and follow up one second later with the sound you chose, whether it’s a ring, a bark or a siren.

Step 3. Praise your pup for barking.

Say “yes” and “thank you” when your pooch yaps, and then give her a treat, such as Zuke’s Mini Naturals dog treats.

“Most dogs will be surprised when they’re being encouraged rather than reprimanded or reacted to negatively,” Becker says. This helps prime them for success.

Practice this cue a few times a day in short sessions until you know your dog has learned the behavior. Once you master how to teach a dog to talk, it’s time to teach your pup to be quiet.

How to Teach a Dog to Be Quiet

Step 1. Cue the barking.

Say “speak” or “bark” and play the sound that gets your pup yipping. Let her bark a few times.

Step 2. Give a cue.

Calmly say “quiet” while you hold out a higher-value toy or treat reward than the one used for getting your dog to speak. (Think bacon or American Journey’s turkey jerky treats.) Your aim is to get your dog to close her mouth to investigate what is in your hand

Note: If you’ve been using “Quiet!” without much success, try swapping it for something else like “hush” or “shush,” Becker says.

Step 3. Praise your pup’s silence.

As soon as she quiets down, reward her. After a while, she’ll begin to understand that she can control her barking.

Step 4. Bump up the training.

To really reinforce the behavior, add in other variables, such as a pup-savvy friend at the door. Because another person probably will get your dog overly excited, give her something else to channel her energy after she’s quieted down. For example, teach her to go to her dog bed or nose out dog biscuits, like American Journey’s grain-free lamb treats, hidden inside a food puzzle.

As your dog gets more practice, you can begin to phase out the treats or add other commands to the “quiet” cue, such as sit, touch or down.

“It’s also important to randomly treat your dog for times she remains quiet without needing any reminder,” Becker says. “That way, you make sure she realizes her ability to be quiet gets noticed and rewarded—and thus increases the likelihood she’ll repeat it in the future.”


By Linda Rodgers

Featured Image: goodluz/Shutterstock.com

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