Teaching your dog a couple of stupid party tricks is fun for both you and the dog. Some of these commands can even prove helpful in other aspects of the dog’s life . The command ‘speak’ is one such example of how a fun trick can serve a very important purpose in everyday life. “Speak” should not mean “bark your head off for hours on end”, just a few short barks, but it can prove to be very helpful if you happen to have a barker on your hands. Teaching the command will suggest to your dog that they should only ‘speak’ when spoken to.
Like most other training, a good way to practice this command is to use a treat since dogs are highly food motivated. Show your dog the treat and hold it above his head – don’t taunt the dog but make sure the treat is out of reach. Say the word “speak” in a calm assertive voice. Although dogs respond best to a calm and assertive owner, this is one instance where you can allow your voice to be slightly more animated.
If your dog barks in response to the word, give him the treat and praise him by saying “good speak”. It’s always a good idea to incorporate the command word into the praise since it will reinforce the idea that the command is a good thing. If your dog does not cooperate with food, try using an instance that you know will make him bark such as having someone ring your doorbell and say the word “speak” at the same time. You can use a leash to help your dog remain calm and focused while you do this.
It’s also a great idea to add hand signals to the command. Dogs communicate with one another using mainly body language and gestures. While they can definitely learn to understand verbal commands, it is often much easier for them to learn hand signals. A common hand signal used for the command is to touch your fingers to your thumb and open and close them while speaking the word. Think hand puppets!
Always end training on a good note. Your dog should look forward to this time with you. Sessions should be short and overwhelmingly positive (even if you secretly want to pull your hair out).