Teach your dog to Speak

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I hadn’t written a post regarding how to train your dog to speak because it is covered quite substantially online and on YouTube. But after being asked by a Facebook liker I thought it may be advantageous for some to get some tips on how to teach this to your dog. This is a great tool to teach your dog if they are a constant barker. And if your dog barks frequently, this can make the teaching much easier. However if you have a quiet dog finding the right trigger to capture the behaviour can be tricky. Obviously to teach speak you need to get your dog to bark at something, so finding a trigger that causes your dog to bark is the first step. Some general notes to keep in mind when finding the trigger. You don’t want to use a trigger that has a negative association. If your dog barks when the doorbell rings and you usually scald them for it, that is a negative trigger. I suggest you find the trigger during play, either by play or by (not my favourite) by withholding toys or anything your dog likes and wants. I recommend finding a positive trigger, for example if your dog gives you a playful bark when playing a tug game or ball game use that trigger. If you can not get a play trigger you can try to achieve a more “frustrated” bark by getting your dog excited for a toy or ball while they are on a lead or behind a gate. I don’t like this because there is not as much fun for the dog, but I will admit it works. Provided you reward at the right times and get the dog to understand that the bark is what you are looking for quickly, within the first 15 minutes. After that you can start to relieve the frustration barrier. Quite often if you get your dog energised during play then you suddenly stop playing most dogs will bark to cause you to play again, you can put the toy behind your back and hide it from them until they bark. When you have found the trigger, you need to create situations that cause your dog to bark, say the command “speak” to your dog in a happy but consistant tone to your dog (don’t vary your tone) every 3 or so seconds, not too frequently, until your dog barks. At the moment they bark reward with a treat or play and repeat. Do this for no more than 10 – 15 minutes at a time and give a few hours between sessions. If your dog starts barking and doesn’t stop barking this is an opportunity to teach a second part to the behaviour which is “Shh”. While your dog is barking more than 3 times at a time say “shh” to your dog every 3 or so seconds until they stop barking, then reward for stopping, See-saw between speak and shh until your dog can do both on command. It’s pretty simple but finding the right trigger is the most difficult part. Remember to be calm, and patient with your dog when training. Never get frustrated or lose your temper when your dog doesn’t get it. Dogs respect calm humans, not frustrated humans! If you start to feel frustrated, STOP and try again later. Sometimes your dog may not be in the mood to learn, don’t rush them. And feel free to change these notes to suit your circumstances. Just keep in mind “Is it fun?”, “Is it friendly?”, “Are we both happy?” if the answer is yes you are doing it all right! And most of all have fun, like all dog training it is a great bonding experience and it brings you and your pooch closer together. If anyone else has any other tips to add, put your comments below. I would welcome some additional ideas on this one.

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