Teaching "speak" and "quiet"

Inappropriate barking is often the greatest annoyance to dog owners. One of the biggest mistakes that new dog owners make is to angrily yell "QUIET!!" at a dog when it is barking. The dog does not understand what "quiet" means, so to yell angrily is simply unfair to the dog. In addition, since the dog has no idea why it is being scolded, the angry tone only causes conflict in the relationship. It is even more unfair when dog owners say they want their dog to bark when someone is at the front door or approaches their house. The owner seems to expect the dog to be able to read the owners mind and somehow know when it is OK to bark and when it is not. I believe in order to effectively teach the meaning of quiet, it is important to first teach the dog the opposite of quiet which is to bark or speak on command.

Find something that causes your dog to bark. For example, many dogs will bark when someone rings the door bell. If this causes your dog to bark, ring the doorbell and say, "Speak!". When the dog barks even just once, say, "Good, speak" as you give your dog a treat. Repeat this several times and then eventually, wait until you get 2 barks before you praise and give the treat. Once again this is repeated over and over wait for more barks before you reward the dog. Eventually, you will not need to ring the doorbell and the dog will bark when you give the speak command.

If your dog does not bark when the doorbell rings, you can also try hooking the leash to the dog and tying it to an immovable object like a tree or pole. Then begin to tease you dog with a toy, food, or even move around like you want to run and play. When a dog cannot get to something it desires, it will often bark out of frustration. Just as mentioned above, say the command and then praise and reward as soon as you get a bark.

Different dogs may bark for other reasons, so it is up to you to find the easiest way to make your dog bark. Just be sure not to teach the speak command when your dog is barking out of fear or aggression. We do not want to encourage negative behavior.

Once your dog understands the speak command, you can begin to teach the quiet command. Make sure you have some treats. Give your dog the speak command. When your dog barks, verbally praise and pet the dog, but do not give it a treat. After a couple barks, say "Quiet". If your dog continues to bark, CALMLY say repeat it again. When your dog eventually stops barking, even if it is only for 2 seconds, immediately give it the treat and say "Good, Quiet". Repeat this several times and eventually increase the amount of quiet time before rewarding with the treat. The dog will quickly learn that it is OK to bark when given the command, but it is much better to be quiet since it gets the treat when quiet.

You will know when your dog truly understands the meaning of speak and quiet when you can turn the barking on and off like a light switch based on your commands. Now when a dog is barking inappropriately, you can give the quiet command. Because the dog is familiar with the meaning of quiet, a the dog can now be given a correction if it continues to bark after being given the quiet command. Like any obedience command, the dog must learn that it is unpleasant to disobey the command. So remember, do not give the command unless you are willing to enforce it 100% of the time.

Some dogs will bark when they are in their crate. Place a light blanket over the crate so the dog cannot see anything outside of crate. Many dogs tends to stop barking when there is no longer any visual stimulation. However, make sure the blanket does not hinder air from entering the crate.

Some dogs will bark excessively in the yard or house, especially when the owner is not present. Since the owner cannot give the quiet command when he or she is not around, the best remedy for this situation is the use of an electronic bark collar. I do not recommend the use of bark collars that spray fluid into the dog's face when it barks. Some dogs are not bothered by it or they become accustomed and build a tolerance to the annoyance of the fluid.