No, we cannot teach a dog to speak in a human language, but we can teach our dogs to bark on command. With barking often thought of as a problem, you might be a little mystified about why you would want to teach a dog to bark, or talk, on command. However, there are actually a few scenarios where a dog that barks when you want it to, or under certain conditions can be handy. For instance, if you are out walking your dog alone and notice someone looking a little untrustworthy, a barking dog is likely to leave them thinking twice about accosting you (if that was their intention). Your dog can also announce visitors at the door, or let you know they need to go outside for potty. Of course, any dog that learns to bark when asked to, also needs to know when to quieten down.
2 Ways of teaching a dog to speak
There are two popular strategies to use when teaching your dog to bark on command. One uses frustration, and the other uses excitement to provoke your dog into “speaking.” The first – frustration – involves securing your dog to a tree or post using a collar and lead. Please note that you are not leaving your dog tied up outside by themselves as you are going to be with them at all times.
The frustration method of training
Tie one of his favourite toys to a pole. Now wave and dangle the toy so your dog can see it, but keep it just out of reach. As the frustration builds your dog should soon start barking. As soon as he does reward him by giving him a little time with the toy before removing it. Once your dog associates barking with getting the toy add a spoken command to the mix. When he barks on the spoken command start showing him a hand signal. Once he associates the hand signal with barking you can drop the spoken command and continue using just the hand signal.
The excited method of training a dog to speak
The next process involves getting your dog excited through play, such as with a game of fetch or tug. Have your reward on hand and when your dog is excited let them see it, then hide it from view behind your back. With a little luck the energy and excitement, plus the dog being a little miffed at the hidden treat, it will all add up to a bark. If he doesn’t bark, let the dog see the reward once more, maybe hold it out and then quickly hide it again. Keep doing that until the dog barks. Once they do immediately reward them with the treat. The process is then much the same as the above frustration technique with first teaching them to bark for a treat, then the spoken command, adding the hand signal, and then using just the hand signal.
Training your dog NOT to bark
Teaching your dog to go quiet after barking is a similar process. Once they start barking let them continue for 3 or 4 barks and then give the quiet command. If they stop barking immediately reward them with their favourite tasty treat. Once they learn to associate a treat with being quiet add a spoken command until they learn to quiet down with just the spoken command. As before, add a hand signal, and when they are comfortable with that process start using just the hand signal. Gradually increase the time between obeying the command and giving the treat to reinforce the behaviour.
Doing the above techniques regularly every day should soon see your dog barking and going quiet on command. Just remember to be patient and consistent as some dog breeds will take longer than others – up to a few weeks in some cases.