How to Train a German Shepherd to Speak

Easy
1-3 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

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.

Defining Tasks

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.

Getting Started

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!".

The Door Knock Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Knock on the door
To begin, recruit a friend or a family member to help you. Without your dog seeing who it is, have your assistant stand outside your front door and knock once, while your dog stands beside you inside your home.
Step
2
Add command
When your friend knocks on the door, tell your dog to "Speak!". When he barks, praise him and give him a treat. Wait until he stops barking, then repeat the process by having your friend knock again. If your friend can hear your dog barking, then you can instruct her to wait until he stops barking, and then to knock again whenever he has been quiet for seven seconds. The seven seconds are to give you enough time to praise your dog and to offer him a treat between knocks.
Step
3
Repeat
Repeat having someone knock while you tell your dog to 'speak' at least twenty times over the next few days. After twenty times, begin to tell your dog to 'speak' before someone knocks on the door. To do this, after you tell him to 'speak', wait seven seconds, and after seven seconds have passed, if he has not barked, have your assistant knock. The seven seconds are to test whether or not he will bark without the knock, and to give him time to think about what he is supposed to do when told to 'speak'.
Step
4
Give extra treats
Repeat the process of telling your dog to 'speak' when no one has knocked yet, and then waiting seven seconds before having your assistant knock. Do this until your dog will bark before she knocks. The first time that he does this, praise him especially well, and offer him five treats, one at a time. Continue to practice telling him to 'speak' before knocking, until he will speak on command every time.
Step
5
Practice makes perfect
When your dog will 'speak' consistently when told to, without someone having to knock on the door, then your dog has learned the 'speak' command. Congratulations! Practice often and in different locations to really solidify this trick.
Recommend training method?

The Video Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Find a video
To begin, find a video of a barking or howling dog, to play on a portable electronic device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Have an assistant hold the device for you, or hide the device behind your back or behind a nearby wall, so that your dog does not see that the noise is coming from your device during the training.
Step
2
Play video
Get your dog's attention by standing in front of him and saying his name. When he is paying attention, have your assistant play the video. While the video is playing, excitedly tell your dog, "Speak!".
Step
3
Reward
When your dog barks in response to the howling or barking in the video, praise your dog and offer him a treat.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat playing the video, telling your dog to 'speak', and then rewarding him for barking, at least twenty times over the next several days.
Step
5
Use just the word
After your dog has barked at least twenty times in response to the video, then tell your dog to 'speak' in an excited voice, without playing the video. After you tell him to 'speak', if he does not bark, wait seven seconds, and then repeat the command again. Do this up to five times in a row, until your dog barks. When your dog barks, then praise him and offer him five treats, one at a time.
Step
6
Practice longer
If your dog still will not bark after you have done the five repetitions, then go back to using the video to get him to bark, and practice with the video for longer. Once you have practiced with the video for a couple of days, if your dog is responding well, then try telling him to 'speak', without using the video, again.
Step
7
Practice!
Once your dog is barking in response to just your command, then your dog has successfully learned 'speak'! Continue to practice this trick often so that your dog will improve even more and will not forget it.
Recommend training method?

The Capture Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Prepare treats
To begin, fill a small Ziploc bag or treat pouch with treats. Place the bag into your pocket or cover the treat pouch with your shirt, so that the treats are out of sight. If your dog is very food motivated, you can also use your dog's own kibble in place of the treats.
Step
2
Watch your dog
Watch your dog carefully throughout the day. Any time that your dog barks, quickly tell him "Speak!", and praise him while you offer him a treat.
Step
3
Repeat
Repeat telling your dog to 'speak' whenever he barks, until you have done it at least twenty times throughout the week.
Step
4
Use just the word
When your dog has been told to 'speak' at least twenty times while barking, then try to get him to 'speak' when he is not already barking. To do this, wait until he barks at something. When he barks, tell him to 'speak' like you did before, and praise him and offer him a treat after you tell him. When you finish giving him his treat, while he is quiet, command him to 'speak' again. When you say the word "speak!", say it in an excited voice to encourage him to bark. If he barks, praise him enthusiastically and offer him five treats this time, giving him one treat at a time.
Step
5
Try again
If your dog does not speak when you tell him to while he is quiet, then simply repeat the process again the next time that he is barking. Do this until he will bark again when you tell him to 'speak' while he is being quiet.
Step
6
Repeat
Practice telling your dog to 'speak' again while he is being quiet, until your dog will do it consistently.
Step
7
Wait
When your dog will consistently bark again when you tell him to 'Speak' while he is being quiet, then practice having him Speak when he is not already barking at something. To do this, simply call your dog over to you, tell him to 'speak' in an excited voice, then wait seven seconds. If he barks, then immediately praise and reward him. If he does not bark during the seven seconds, then repeat your command in an excited voice. Do this up to five times in a row, until he barks.
Step
8
Go back if needed
If he still will not bark after waiting seven seconds and repeating the process five times, then go back to telling him to 'speak', after he already barked at something. Practice at that step for at least two more days, before attempting to move on again.
Step
9
Practice
Once your dog will bark when simply told to 'speak' then practice this command often so that he will continue to improve, and so that he will not forget it.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd