Imagine that a large, serious looking German Shepherd is walking through your neighborhood with his owner. He attentively watches his owner for instruction and walks at a perfect heel beside her. Imagine that a strange man approaches the duo. As the person gets uncomfortably close, the dog begins to bark menacingly. The man startles and heads in the other direction, while the owner noticeably relaxes at his departure. Perhaps the man was only a pesky door to door salesman, bent on selling her something, or perhaps he was just someone simply not watching where he was going, but what if that was you in that situation, and your dog just scared off a predator--Someone who wanted to harm you or to take your belongings?
In order to ward off dangerous people, many people believe that their dog needs to be trained for protection work, or for their dog to be naturally suspicious enough of strangers that he would bite an approaching person on his own. What if you could have a German Shepherd that simply looked and acted intimidating, but was actually very friendly and laid back most of the time? A well-socialized German Shepherd, with a great temperament, that would be safe around all of the neighborhood children who liked to play in your backyard? One of the best visual deterrents to a would-be attacker is a menacing looking dog that heeds its owner's every command. After all, a barking dog that appears to be dangerous can make almost anyone nervous, especially when that dog is a German Shepherd.
In addition to being a useful command for safety purposes, 'speak' can also be a crowd favorite. It can be a lot of fun to have your Shepherd bark on cue for friends. It can also be useful for practicing the 'quiet' command since you can command your dog to make noise without all of the external stimuli that normally cause your dog to bark. Then when your dog barks, you can practice telling him to be "Quiet", in a setting where he can more easily succeed.
Expect this command to take between one and three weeks to train. If your German Shepherd already enjoys barking frequently, then he will probably learn this rather quickly, but if your dog tends to be quiet most of the time, it might take him longer to learn this. If you are using the 'Door Knock' method or the 'Video' method, and your dog stops barking at the door or at the video at some point during the training, then you may need to switch methods, in order to get him to bark again for practice purposes. You can also try practicing at a different door or adding in a doorbell noise, if using the 'Door Knock' method. Some dogs will stop barking at the door or the video because they realize that the dogs in the video are not present, or that the guest at the door is not someone exciting.
If you choose to use the 'Capture' method, be aware that that method can encourage your dog not only to 'speak' on cue, but also to bark in general. This is because you will be rewarding your dog for barking at things he sees and hears in everyday life. If you do not wish to encourage that type of barking, then you can either choose a different method to teach this with, or you can work on teaching your dog the 'quiet' command at the same time. If you teach the 'quiet' command at the same time, then you will be rewarding both noise and silence, by giving him treats for barking and for being quiet.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. Preferably something that is soft, so that your dog can eat it quickly between barks. If you are using the 'Door Knock' method then you will also need an assistant and a front door, or another door that your dog tends to bark at.
If you are using the 'Video' method then you will also need a portable electronic device with an internet connection, and the ability to play videos of dogs online. A smartphone or a tablet should work well for this. You will need to find a video of dogs howling or barking online. Although this method can be done alone, you might also want an assistant, who can be in charge of starting and stopping the video for you, so that you can just focus on communicating with your dog.
If you are using the 'Capture' method, you will need a Ziploc bag and a pocket to place the treats into, as well as a listening ear, to notice when your dog begins to bark, and patience, to wait for him to bark at something. With all of the methods, you will need to an enthusiastic and encouraging tone of voice for telling him to "speak!".