January is National Train Your Dog Month and there’s no better way to celebrate the bond between you and your canine companion than by introducing some fun into your daily routine. Tricks training is a great way to do that.
National Train Your Dog Month was established six years ago by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, to remind new owners that, like children, dogs need socialization and schooling to become well-behaved companions.
Last week, we learned some of the basic tricks. This week we will show how a few things that come naturally to dogs—barking and nodding—can make people believe that your dog has mastered the power of language.
“Speak!”: Training Your Dog To Bark On Command
Teaching your dog to speak on command can be a fun trick as well as a useful behavior. It’s easier to teach your dog to “quiet” once you’ve put barking on a cue. You also can reward your dog for just one bark, as opposed to barking non-stop for several minutes. Plus, it’s an entertaining trick that tends to be a hit with friends and family!
Have Your Reward Ready
The first part of training your dog to “speak” is to be ready with a reward, such as a treat or a toy. The idea is that once your dog barks, you’re immediately prepared to mark the behavior with a command and a reward.
Get Your Dog To Speak
This step will be easier for some dog owners than others. If you’ve got a vocal dog, there might be many occasions when they bark, like when you grab their leash or a favorite toy. The key is to get your dog excited enough to bark. If nothing else works, try running or jumping around with your dog to excite them enough to start barking.
Mark The Bark
As soon as your dog barks, immediately mark the behavior with a command like “speak!”, and reward them with a treat, toy, or praise. If you’re using clicker training, make sure to click as soon as your dog barks. Continue marking & rewarding the behavior until your dog understands how to “speak” on command.
Add A Hand Signal
Once your dog understands your verbal command for “speak,” you can add in a hand signal too. A commonly used hand signal for “speak” starts with an open hand, palm facing the dog, then repeatedly closing your 4 fingers against your thumb. When your dog has grasped that, continue to use your verbal command, hand signal, or a combination of both to reinforce the behavior and get your dog to consistently speak on command.
Tips For Training “Speak”
Unlike, say, shaking hands, barking is an instinctive behavior for dogs, so it can be a bit trickier to teach. The last thing you want is to encourage nuisance barking all the time. The key for owners is consistency. When training, you should only reward barking when you’re asking your dog to bark.
Additionally, try to capture and mark only a single bark. You don’t want your dog to think “speak” means “start a barking frenzy.”
Lastly, be mindful of your neighbors when teaching this trick. If you live in an apartment or in close proximity to neighbors, know that others might not find your dog’s barking as cute as you do, so practice in short sessions.
Utilizing The “Speak” Command
“Speak” is often used as a simple, fun, trick to show off to friends and family, but it can have more purposeful uses, as well. For instance, you can train your dog to speak to let you know they need to go outside to do their business. Furthermore, by teaching “speak” and rewarding with a command, you can modify the technique to teach your dog to “whisper” (i.e. bark at a lower volume).
Perhaps most useful when teaching “speak,” you can also train your dog to be quiet on command using the same system of marking and rewarding once your dog ceases barking.
Teach Your Dog to Answer YES and NO
Teach Your Dog To Say “Yes”
- Sit your dog in front of you and place a very high-value treat (for example, a piece of cheese or hot dog) in your closed fist in front of your dog.
- Move your fist up and down in a very slow motion so he moves his head up and down watching the motion and then give him the treat. Repeat a few times.
- Next, practice without the treat in your fist and give him a treat from your other hand. He will learn that the fist is the signal for “yes.”
- After more practice, move your fist close to your body, preferably near your hip. Ask your dog a “yes” question as you hold your fist close to you and move it up and down with very minimal motion. Make sure your dog is looking at the fist.
- And there you have it! Your dog is responding “yes” to any question you ask him! Don’t worry about people looking at your hand signal. Believe me; no one will be looking at you.
Teach Your Dog To Say “No”
Teaching your dog to say “no” is very similar to the “yes” trick. Use your fist but with your pointer finger up, like when you say no to a child or reprimand them. As with the “yes” signal, repeat the same process but instead of going up and down, go side to side in a very slow motion.
After more practice, move your fist and pointer finger close to your body, reduce the motion, and reward with the other hand.
I really had fun teaching Phoebe this trick, and it is a hit every time. I ask her a question and she answers me by nodding yes or no. One of the questions I always ask is “Are you smart?” and when she nods yes; I get big smiles and applause from everyone in the room.
I hope you have a tail-wagging time training this fun trick with your furry friend!
This is week 2 of our series for National Train Your Dog Month. If you would like more tips and tricks please follow us on our social channels. If you would like to schedule a FREE Discovery Call to find out how we can help you make your dog one of the best, please click here.