Some puppies are natural talkers – they moan, groan, howl, yowl, yip, yap, whine, and bark. Others are quieter by nature. Either way, teaching your puppy the “Speak” command and its opposite command, “Quiet,” will enable you to build his communication skills and eliminate inappropriate puppy outbursts.
Command #18 - “Speak” and “Quiet”
“Speak” means your dog should bark.
“Quiet” means your dog should stop barking and be quiet.
Ask yourself, is my dog a talker or more the silent type?
- If… Your puppy is a natural ‘talker,’ you can take advantage of that fact in teaching “Speak.”
- Then… When your pup begins to bark, for whatever reason, you can say, “Simon, Speak!” If he barks again, say, “Yes! Good Speak!” Try to time your command of “Speak” to occur just before he barks, and then offer a treat and reinforce with “Yes! Good Speak.” This is an easy way to teach this command, and if you keep it up, he will understand what you want and will “Speak” on command. Look for opportunities when you know your puppy will begin to bark (for example when someone comes to the door) and ask him to “Speak” just before he would start anyway.
- If… You have a puppy that is quiet by nature and not a big talker.
- Then… You will need to build some excitement (and maybe a bit of frustration) to get him to speak. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. Does your puppy have a toy that gets him super excited? You could use that to entice your puppy to “Speak.” Ask him to sit and begin playing with the toy. Keep your energy up and be excited. Encourage him to speak, but do not let him have the toy unless a sound of some sort issues forth. At first any sound from him will do – encourage him with “That’s It! Speak!” Reward (with a treat) for any sound he makes to give him the idea that sound is what you are looking for. Reinforce a sound with “Yes! Good Speak Simon!”
Once your puppy is speaking on command, you can begin teaching “Quiet.” With your puppy ready and willing, ask him to “Speak,” followed by “Yes! Good Speak!” Ask for another “Speak.” As he is speaking, say, “Simon, Quiet!” Say this slightly louder and in a firmer tone of voice, to get his attention. As soon as he is silent, say, “Yes! Good Quiet,” and give him a treat.
You can make a game of “Speak” and “Quiet,” asking for “Speak” two or three times followed by a “Quiet,” then maybe one “Speak” followed by a “Quiet,” then four “Speaks”… you get the idea. Changing the number of times he speaks before being quiet will keep him interested in doing as you ask and ensure that you are in control of his speak/quiet cycle.
“Speak” and “Quiet” are fun and useful commands that can help develop communication skills between you and your dog. Teaching “Speak” and “Quiet” essentially gives you the ability to switch your puppy’s vocalizations on and off – a handy skill to have to prevent incessant barking or to play vocal games with him. Have fun with it and your puppy will too!
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All training tips in this series are from ECAD (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities), a non-profit organization dedicated to training service dogs for veterans with disabilities. Learn more about ECAD.