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Your Doberman rules the house. There is simply no debating it. He’s the only member of the family that doesn’t answer back and is always happy to see you. Therefore, he gets plenty of food and all the attention he wants. However, he sometimes finds it difficult to communicate with you when he wants something. If you could teach him to speak, this problem would be alleviated. Also, you want to channel his energy into something productive. This would also make for a party trick that would be guaranteed to get guests giggling.
This type of training also lays the groundwork for teaching a range of other commands. It will all help assert your control and position as pack leader. Not to mention, he will now be able to let you know when he wants to go out to the toilet, for example.
Teaching your Doberman to 'speak' is actually surprisingly straightforward. The challenging part comes in initially conveying to him what it is you want him to do. So, you will first have to look for situations which naturally cause a bark and then capitalize on these moments. Once you have done that, you just need to use an effective motivator to reinforce training.
If he’s a puppy he should be eager to please and a fast learner. As a result, training may prove successful in just a few days. However, if his days of being a keen student are in the past and he’s more interested in sleeping than talking, then you may need a little while longer. It could take two weeks before you see consistent results. Get this training right and you could even train him to be a guard dog further down the line.
Before you start training, you will need to collect a few things. Stock up on some tasty treats or break his favorite food into small pieces. The more he loves the reward, the quicker he will learn. A toy and a clicker will also be needed for one of the methods.
You will need to set aside 10 minutes each day for training. Try and a find a time where you won’t be distracted by a noisy household.
Once you have the above, just bring patience and some earplugs, then work can begin!
The Bark-Inducing Method
Spend the first couple of days watching your Doberman. You are looking for any situations that naturally cause him to speak. When you are preparing his food or about to take him for a walk are likely occasions.
Now place him in the bark inducting situation. Just as he is about to bark or does bark, issue a ‘speak’ command. You can use any word or phrase you like. Dobermans can learn hundreds of different commands. Just give the instruction in an upbeat voice.
As soon as he does indeed speak, hand over a tasty treat. But make sure he gets the reward within a few seconds of barking or he may not associate the action with the reward. You can also give him some verbal praise too.
Spend the first couple of days issuing the command when he is already in a bark triggering situation. Then start giving the command in different scenarios. Continue to give him rewards too.
Lose the treats
Once he’s fully got the hang of it and follows your instruction even when there are distractions around, you can slowly start to phase out the treats. At this point he won’t need an incentive to use his newfound voice.
The Excitement Method
A clicker is fantastic way for you to communicate with your Doberman. Whenever he performs a behavior correctly, click to signal to him that he’s done a good job and follow up with a treat. This will speed up the learning process.
Get him worked up
Now you need to get him as excited as possible. You can play around with his toys and talk in a high-pitched voice. Dobermans mirror their owners' behavior, so the more animated you are, the more excited he will become.
Don’t give up
Keep encouraging him and playing around until he barks. This part is the most time-consuming as it may take him a little while to catch on. But don’t give up. Continue encouraging him until he opens his mouth and speaks.
As soon as he does speak, even if it’s a little bit, quickly click and give him a treat. You can also hand over a favorite toy to play with. The greater the reward, the more likely it is that he will repeat the behavior.
Once he has found his voice, you need to reinforce the behavior. That means playing around like this each day and rewarding him whenever he speaks. Speaking will soon become habit. At which point, you can cut out the treats.
The Tug of War Method
Get him extremely excited with one toy. Make this his favorite toy in the world. To do that, get animated when you play with it, play fetch with it, and leave it in his bed at night. You want him to jump up whenever he sees it.
Tug of war
Now sit down and start playing tug of war with that toy. He will be so eager to sink his teeth into it that he will quickly get worked up. Talk in a high-pitched voice and really make him work for the toy.
Once he starts to bark and make a sound, give a ‘speak’ command. Make sure you give the instruction just once. You want him to respond to you the first time, every time in future. Over time he will begin to associate the command with speaking.
As soon as you hear even a growl, let him have the toy as a reward. It’s important he gets the toy straight away, otherwise he may not associate speaking with the reward.
Continue to play tug of war for a few minutes each day. However, make him growl, bark, and speak for longer before you give him the toy each time. This will swiftly get him into the habit of speaking. After a while, you will be able to use the command whenever you want him to speak.
By James Barra
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021