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Have you ever watched a video of a dog barking very softly in response to his owners words? The dog is so attentive and cute while he converses with his owner, as if he can understand every word being said. Perhaps you would like for your dog to learn how to do that adorable trick.
Maybe teaching your dog how to bark softly would be for more practical purposes. You could teach your dog to alert you when someone comes to your door, without the whole neighborhood also knowing. After all, many small dogs already know how to bark loudly. You could train your dog for service work and have your dog bark softly as his alert signal. Maybe you need for your dog to alert you when a seizure or blood sugar drop is coming on, and a quiet bark would be the perfect signal. Whatever your reason for teaching this command, it can certainly be useful and fun thing to train.
Most dogs who are able to bark can learn this command. Many love doing it because it gives them a reason to bark that is acceptable! One of the wonderful things about teaching this command is that you will also be teaching your dog how to be quiet when told to. Putting barking and quieting on cue is very useful, especially for owners of small dogs, who tend to bark a lot.
Expect this command to take between four and eight weeks to train. Most dogs will catch onto the barking when stimulated pretty quickly, but your dog could struggle with barking softly when he would rather bark at his full volume level. Be patient with your dog if this is the case. After all, he has been barking loudly all of his life and now you are asking him to do something completely different.
It is important to practice this often. If your dog will no longer bark using the first method that you try before he has learned the "Softly" command, you may need to switch to another method part of the way through, in order to continue the training. This happens because some dogs realize that the door knock or video noise is controlled by you and so stop barking. The good news if this happens is that you have desensitized your dog to the sound of either door knocks and perhaps even dog barks. If your dog stops barking at the door, you can also try knocking on a different door.
To get started, you will need several small, tasty treats, or if your dog is not food motivated, a favorite toy to reward him with. If you are using the 'Door Knocking' method, you will also need a door that your dog will bark at when you knock, such as a front door, and you will need an assistant to knock for you. If you are using the 'Video' method, you will also need an electronic device that you can play barking or howling videos on, such as a smartphone or tablet, and an assistant if you do not want to juggle both communicating with your dog and playing the device at the same time. If you are using the 'Capture' method, you will need good timing, patience, and alertness to notice when your dog is barking so that you can train right then.
The Door Knocking Method
To begin, have your assistant go to your front door. With your dog inside your house, tell your dog "Softly" and have your assistant knock on the front door or ring your doorbell to make your dog bark.
When you dog barks praise your dog and offer him a treat.
After you have rewarded your dog, tell your dog "Quiet" in a soothing, soft voice. Wait for your dog to stop barking, then when he is quiet for even a couple of seconds offer him another treat. If your dog is really excited, you may have to wait a few minutes before he will become quiet. Just be patient, he will have to stop for at least a second eventually.
Repeat this sequence until he will bark when you say "Softly" and become quiet when told "Quiet".
Make it softer
After your dog has mastered barking and quieting on command, begin to teach him to bark softly. To do this, only offer him a treat when he barks a little bit more softly that he did before. Continue to praise him for barking when told to, and continue to offer him a treat for being quiet when told to.
Continue to practice having him bark and only rewarding gradually softer and softer barks. When your dog barks at the volume level that you desire for him to stay at, then praise him enthusiastically and offer him five treats, one at a time. Once he has barked at the correct volume several times, only reward him when he repeats that volume level after that.
The Video Method
Find a barking video
To begin, find a video online of dogs barking or howling that will cause your dog to bark. If you have an assistant, have her hold the electronic device with the video on it somewhere out of your dog's view. If you do not have an assistant, you can hold the video behind your back or around a corner.
Play the video
Play the video where you dog can hear and tell your dog "Softly". When your dog barks, praise him and offer a treat.
After you have given your dog the treat, in a soothing, soft voice tell your dog "Quiet", and when he becomes quiet for a couple of seconds praise him and offer him another treat. It may take him a few minutes at first to become quiet. Be patient and wait. He will have to become quiet eventually, even for just a second.
Repeat having your dog bark and become quiet until he will do both on command, even without you playing the video.
Make it softer
After your dog knows how to bark on command, begin to teach him how to do it softly. To teach him, begin to reward him only when he barks more softly than he did before. Reward him several times at each volume level, until he will do that level consistently. Do this until he has reached your desired volume level and then reward him only at that level from there on out. While doing this, continue to praise him for all attempts at barking when told to, and continue to give him a treat for every "Quiet" command that he obeys.
The Capture Method
Watch for opportunities
To begin, look for opportunities to catch your dog barking.
When your dog begins to bark at something, tell your dog "Softly" and then praise him and offer him a treat.
Continue to tell your dog "Softly" anytime that he barks and then reward him for it. When your dog begins to pay attention to you when you say "Softly", in anticipation of receiving a treat, offer him his treat then tell him "Quiet" in a soft, soothing tone of voice. When he becomes quiet for a couple of seconds, offer him another treat. You may have to wait a few minutes for him to become quiet when you first start this.
Make it softer
When you can tell him "Softly" and "Quiet" and he will respond to both when simply told, then it is time to teach him to bark more quietly. To do this, tell him "Softly" and when he barks praise him, but only offer him a treat if he barks more quietly than before. Continue to offer him a treat for being quiet when told while doing this.
Practice until perfect
Repeat the process of having him bark and be quiet, while gradually decreasing his volume level over time by only rewarding softer barks. When he barks at your desired final volume level, reward him with five treats, one at a time. After he has barked at your desired volume level several times, then only reward him when he barks at that volume level after that.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 01/23/2018, edited: 01/08/2021