teaching speak! and Quiet! to your dog

Some dog trainers believe you can teach “quiet” without teaching “speak”.  I agree but I don’t think a dog really sticks with the “quiet” command unless “speak” is taught first, so he knows exactly what the difference is, since you are commanding him to differentiate between the two commands within a short period of time.

Teaching speak can take a lot of time and mucho patience.  First, you have to get your dog to “speak” in response to some stimulus.  Often, I use high-value treats.  Physically show the treats to your dog and then hold them at arm’s length away from his snout and keep them there until he starts getting antsy and eventually barks.  Warning, this process could take a lot of silent moments and awkwardness for you and the dog, but I have learned it eventually works – it could take up to 15 minutes, FYI.  When it does happen, you have to be very quick to “mark” the behavior with a “yes! speak!” followed by giving him a treat.  Continue to hold the treats away from him and wait for the next bark.  It usually happens more quickly the second time around.  When he barks, again, IMMEDIATELY say “yes! speak!” and reward him.  Now you’re cooking!  This time, hold the treats away from him again but say “speak!” and wait for up to 5 seconds before saying “speak!” again.  Continue these iterations until he barks again.  Then you know what to do – “yes! speak!” and treat.  Continue to repeat this process until he is consistently barking every time you ask him to “speak!”.

It’s now time to introduce “quiet!”.  Again, this is going to take time and patience.  At the beginning, your pup obviously won’t understand what “quiet!” means.  First, ask him to “speak!” three times.  Next, say “quiet!” while putting your treat hand behind your back so he cannot see the treats.  You might get lucky and your pup may be quiet for 2 seconds – that is what we are looking for – a quiet time lasting a minimum of 2 seconds.  Assuming your dog is quiet for 2 seconds, immediately say “yes! Quiet!” and give him a treat.  Repeat 2 more times.

Now, assuming you don’t get lucky, which will probably be the case.  When you ask your dog to be “quiet!”, he will probably continue to bark, thinking that you are just asking him to speak again.  When this happens, say “no! quiet!” and take a step back.  This will give your pup the hint that he is doing something incorrectly.  If he continues to bark, stay with this process.  If he stops barking for 2 seconds, it’s “yes! quiet!” and treat.  If he continues to bark after having taken 4 steps back, say “no! quiet!” but this time move forward and pretend like you are offering him the treat.  He will most likely stop barking to figure out what the heck you are doing.  If so, say “yes! quiet!” and treat.  If he continues to bark, start the process of backing up again while saying “no! quiet!” for each step backwards.  Repeat this process until he finally quiets and then “yes! quiet!” and treat.

Once you have established a few quiets start the process of saying “speak!” and treating 3 separate times and then “quiet!” 3 separate times.  Rinse and repeat and there you have it!

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