To bark or not to bark – How to teach?


How beautiful life would be if we can teach our dogs to bark or not to bark on a command! Well, it is possible…here’s how to teach your dog to bark and be quiet on command.

Teaching to bark on command
Malaika Fernandes
Find a trigger: Find a trigger that will cause your dog to bark such as the door bell ring, etc. An unknown source for the noise is best, so an assistant during this part of training will be helpful. Have the assistant ring the door bell. The minute the dog barks on hearing the door bell, say the command ‘speak’ and praise him.
Speak on command: The success for teaching any command depends upon how easily the dog makes the connection between the ‘behaviour’ and the ‘command’. Your timing for rewarding the desired behaviour is critical in order to make this connection happen. Praise and reward should happen instantly when the dog does the desired behaviour. Your dog will begin to learn the command when you tag the word ‘speak’ to your praise. Start to wean away from the trigger and only reward when he barks on ‘command’. If the dog does not understand the pairing between the ‘behaviour’ and the ‘command’, be patient. He needs more time to learn the behaviour you want before he can associate with the command. In this case, do more training sessions with the dog that automatically trigger the barking followed by the command ‘speak’. Give the command just once; do not repeat it over and over again like a chant. Growling and whining are all parts of speak and should be rewarded with praise and rewarded with heavy praise when he barks.
Teaching to be quiet on command
Reward quiet: To teach your dog to go quiet on command, timing is of critical value. Initially, your dog will not understand the ‘sshhh’ command for quiet, so at first, you will want to catch him doing it naturally. Give the ‘speak’ command and the minute he stops barking, give him praise followed by your command ‘quiet’. Choose one word for the command and stay with it or else you will end up confusing the dog. Remember to not over use the command and give your dog time to process the command. If he continues to bark, you turn your back on him or look away.
As soon as he stops barking, say quiet and praise him for being quiet on command.
Associate the command with a hand signal: Once the dog knows the ‘quiet’ command, you can teach the hand signal. Bring your index finger to your lips and say ‘quiet’. Also hold a treat in the hand you are using for the hand signal. The hand signal acts as a reinforcer to stop the barking and the treat acts as a motivator for the dog’s nose.
Teaching the dog to go quiet on command is not something that can be used in a scenario where the dog is exhibiting unwanted behaviour. You will want to train your dog to go quiet when you have his undivided attention
(Malaika Fernandes is a certified canine behaviourist & trainer (Northern Centre of Behaviour, UK) and is the director of Walk Romeo – Canine Training, Behaviour Modification, Grooming & Pet Sitting Services, Mumbai).