Many dogs seem to love the sound of their own voice. Dogs bark for a number of reasons, to attract attention, out of fear, to express emotion and to warn of potential intruders or possible dangers. For some dog owners, excessive barking can become a problem. Teaching your dog to speak on command, and more importantly to be quiet on command, is a useful skill which you may wish to add to your dogs lessons in obedience.
Start by selecting appropriate command words which should be short and easily remembered. Words with one syllable such as bark, talk and speak are good when you want your dog to talk, and hush or quiet when you want him to be silent.
As your dog barks, locate the source of the trigger, perhaps by looking out of the window or the door. Get your dogs attention perhaps with a whistle, or by saying your dogs name. As your dog stops barking, immediately say your quiet command, firmly and in a positive voice. Reinforce the quiet behavior with a treat. Be sure to practice the “quiet” command regularly, but for brief periods of time.
Progress from the “quiet” command to the “speak” command. Have a friend or family member ring the doorbell as this will undoubtedly cause your dog to respond by barking. As your dog barks, give the “speak” command, again in a positive tone of voice. Praise your dog for barking several times in a row with a “good speak”, and reward them with a treat. Repeat the process, commending your dog with a verbal “good speak”, as he barks upon your command.
The “quiet” and “speak” commands go hand in hand and should be practiced together. Command your dog to “speak”, reward his obedience, and then tell him to be “quiet”, and again reward him with a treat when he does as you ask him.
Reward based training can be very effective, and given time, your dog will make the connection when you are trying to command an action which results in a treat for him. Be sure not to spoil your dog and overfeed him on treats to the point where his diet becomes unbalanced.
Remember too, that dogs learn at different levels and paces. Be patient with your dog, and use your own judgment as to how he is progressing. It may be that if your dog has a tendency to bark excessively, you might need to teach him the “quiet” command quite early on. However, if your dog is still a young puppy he may not yet have developed either the desire or ability to bark properly. Give him time to develop a little of his own personality before setting out on a plan of obedience training which is beyond his ability to grasp.