How to Train Your Dog to Speak or Be Quiet

Woman playing with her dog
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Teaching your dog to "speak," or bark on command, can be fun as well as useful: it's a fun trick to show family and friends and can ward off intruders. While excessive barking can be a huge problem, teaching the speak and quiet commands with dedication and consistency can both sharpen your dog's natural instinct and allow you to quiet your dog when needed.

Different dog trainers and owners have varying techniques, but the basic methods explained below work for many dogs. To start the training, you will need some small and delicious dog treats or your dog's favorite toy as well as a barking stimulus such as a doorbell or someone to knock on the door.

Train Your Dog to Be Quiet

It's a good idea to start with the quiet cue and make sure your dog knows it before moving on to the bark cue. This is especially helpful if your dog already likes to bark a lot.

Choose one simple word for the quiet command. This cue word should be easy to remember and used consistently. Good choices include "enough," "quiet," and "hush."

  1. Create a situation that will cause your dog to bark. The best method is to have someone ring the doorbell or knock on the door. Or, you may be able to get your dog very excited to cause barking. Sometimes seeing another dog can bring on barking as well.
  2. When your dog barks, briefly acknowledge it by checking for the source (look out the window or door). Then, go back to your dog and get its attention (you might try holding up the treat or toy).
  3. After the barking stops, give your dog the toy or treat.
  4. Repeat these steps and gradually wait for slightly longer periods of silence each time before giving the treat.
  5. Once your dog has remained quiet a few times, add the cue word you have chosen. While your dog is barking, say your quiet command in a firm, audible, and upbeat voice while holding up the reward. Give your dog the reward when the barking stops.
  6. Practice the "quiet" cue frequently. You can do this anytime your dog barks, but keep training sessions brief.

How to Train Your Dog to Speak

Once your dog seems to understand "quiet," it's time to move onto the bark command. Choose one simple word for the bark command. The word should also be easy to remember and used consistently, such as "speak," "bark," or "talk." You can make up your own word or short phrase, but make sure it doesn't sound too much like another cue word or your dog's name.

  1. Once again, get your dog to bark naturally. 
  2. As your dog barks, say your cue word in a clear, upbeat voice.
  3. Praise your dog and give it a treat or toy.
  4. Repeat the speak command process several times until your dog seems to understand.
  5. Once your dog learns "speak" and "quiet" separately, you can use them together. Have your dog speak a few times, then tell it to be quiet.

Problems and Proofing Behavior

Rewards should be immediate and very valuable. You need to make the action "worth it" to your dog. Small liver treats, chicken pieces, or similar training treats work best.

Some people prefer to teach "speak" first and "quiet" second. Others like to teach them together to begin with. This is your choice; it is about your comfort level, confidence, and the dog's ability to learn. Use your best judgment. Dogs with a tendency to become "excessive barkers" might need to learn the quiet command first.

Be patient yet consistent. Some dogs can take weeks to master these commands.

Teaching speak only works on dogs that will bark. If you are training a puppy, wait until it develops the ability and desire to bark to avoid confusing them. Remember that the Basenji dog breed does not bark. However, Basenjis sometimes make a yodeling sound that you can work with. It's a great trick!

Clicker training also works very well when teaching the speak and quiet commands.

To proof your dog's new skills, practice these commands in environments outside the home. The more varied situations you can find, the better. For instance, you can pause for a few minutes while taking a walk in the park and run through the speak and quiet commands. Admittedly, you'll likely have far more uses for "quiet" in public. If your dog barks while in the car, this is a good time to practice the quiet command.