Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dog clicker training idea: How to teach your dog to speak

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The "speak" command is useful for vocal dogs that don't seem to know when to keep their opinions to themselves. Why? Because by teaching a dog to "speak," you are implicitly also teaching the dog not to speak.

Think of it this way: Most dogs will only offer a trick if they think a reward is in play, and they tend to stop performing a trick when they get no treat in return. If you teach a dog to speak, that dog might stop speaking unless you ask for the behavior. That's the only way it's rewarding!

Teaching a dog to speak with a clicker is easy.

Start with a treat in your hand, and wait patiently for your dog to provide some kind of noise in order to get that treat. You don't need to wait for a full-on bark. A grunt, a sneeze or a wheeze will work. As soon as you hear that noise, hit your clicker and say "Good speak," while you're performing your preferred hand signal. Drop that treat, too.

Yes, there's a lot you'll need to do all at once, at the same time. But if a clutzy girl like me can do it, I'm sure you can, too!

In time, you'll shape the command by providing the click/verbal reward/treat only when the dog makes an actual bark. And soon, you'll need to work to extinguish spontaneous barks. Atsy dogs like Liam may offer vocalizations when you have a treat in your hands and offer no commands at all.

Eventually, as you get picker and picker about what constitutes a rewardable noise, you'll see your dog barks only when you want that bark. But there may be some bumps along the way.

For example, Liam now offers a back up on the speak command, likely because he learned the two tricks at the same time. I just wait patiently after giving the command and wait for him to offer up the right activity.

Want to try it? I recommend this product:  Karen Pryor, Getting Started: Clicker Training for Dogs Kit. You'll learn how to use the clicker the right way, and you'll get a starter clicker, too!

Have fun!


Disclosure: Some product links in this post are “affiliate links.” If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I believe provide real value. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”