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Get Your Dog To Speak! How To Teach A Dog To Talk

Teach your dog to speakMost people can't exactly understand dog language, but dogs have been known to learn up to 165 of our words. Imagine how cute and impressive it will be talking with your dog, but is it just a clever trick? Teaching your dog to speak is great training, will increase the bond you share with your dog and also have many practical uses.

If you’ve ever lived next door to a dog that spent all day barking, you might be asking, ‘why would anyone ever want to encourage their dog to bark more?’ Well training a dog to speak or - bark on command - is also the perfect way to control how much and when they bark, which helps prevent problem barking. During teaching your dog to speak, or after they have learned the first steps of the language, you’ll easily be able to progress to train your dog to stop barking at inappropriate times.

Barking helps puppies and dogs communicate and show their emotions, so it’s worth teaching this trick to your dog, and the best part? It’s one of the easiest things a dog can learn.

After your dog has mastered speaking on command, it’s easy to move on to other tricks like barking at strangers, singing or even counting.

Teaching dogs to speak your language

You don’t necessarily need any special devices or tools to get your dog talking, usually, the only thing you’ll use is a clicker – and of course some rewards or treats to keep things fun.

Step 1:

Pick a cue word and a time when your dog usually starts barking, such as when you pick up their leash or ring the doorbell. Use this trigger to get them started, then as they bark say your cue word loud and clear (and/or use the clicker). As your dog barks give them a treat and praise.

Step 2:

Repeat step 1 a few times, mark the barks with a yes, a nod and/or clicker. Then without the trigger action, say your cue word, if your dog barks acknowledge it and reward them.

If at this point you can't get your dog barking, go back to step one and make sure the cue word you’re using is clear.

If your dog doesn’t bark

Try to find something that will get any sound out of them you can work up from and growl, yip and whine - it might just take a bit more time and encouragement.

As your dog progresses only reward him when the yips become louder and continue using the cue word clearly.

Tips for teaching dogs to speak

  • Have your dog sit and pay attention before giving the speak command.
  • Training your dog to bark at a hand signal (such as a duckbill) is also a good trick, do this the same way but use an obvious gesture in place of the clicker and/or cue word.
  • As your dog is learning, wait up to 10 seconds after you make the speak command before repeating – in many cases dogs can work out what you want from them.
  • You might find more success by training your dog in a different order – if you’re having trouble try teaching them to speak from the hand signal first, then add the cue word, then just say the cue word without the hand signal.
  • Only reward your dog for barking when you’re actively in a training session – if you give treats whenever they start they might get confused or carried away (leading to attention-seeking and excessing barking).
  • Reward (yes, click, treat) your dog after a single bark, don’t encourage barking frenzies.
  • Ensure to reward every correct response from your dog so it minimises the chance of them getting confused.
  • Remember, your dog will always be trying to please you, be patient if it takes a bit longer to learn (they are doing it deliberately so don’t get frustrated at them).

How to teach a dog to be quiet

Training dogs to speakSimilar to barking on command, it is also a very useful tool to be able to tell your dog to be quiet. The simplest way is to first master the speak command, then (in a quiet environment) use this to get your dog barking. After two or three barks follow a similar method as the two steps above, using a different cue word and action, such as ‘quiet’ and a flat wave. When they stop barking reward them and acknowledge with a yes or click.

As you progress you can put your dog in situations that usually cause them to get into a barking flurry and then attempt the quiet cue, reward them as they stop.

How to talk to dogs

Be gentle and controlled, try to keep a regular tone so your dog can incorporate and learn from you. A term known as ‘dog-directed speech’ is usually more effective than normal sentences when trying to get a reaction from your dog – especially for puppies and younger dogs. This involves talking in a higher pitch, slower tempo and with less words than you would when talking to a person (and is quite similar to infant-directed speech). The experiment also showed people will instinctively change into dog-directed speech when talking to dogs so you might notice people around you and even yourself doing this (which should get better responses from dogs).

Other ways to communicate with dogs

Talk to dogsAnother instinctive way people communicate with dogs is through gestures, such as pointing and waving. Evidence supports that, unlike some other species, dogs respond well to human gestures. A basic experiment you can try is to have two cups with a treat under one (don’t show your dog while you set it up) then get your dogs attention and point to the cup with the treat. Your dog will likely explore that cup and find the treat. This might seem simple and obvious, but there are many animals such as chimpanzees (human’s closest relatives) and even wolves (dog’s closest relatives) show understanding at this gesture.

This interesting research is an indication that dogs have adapted to their lifestyle of living close to humans, and have developed communication skills similar to that of a small child.

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