How to Teach Speak and Shhhh

Uncontrolled barking is one of the most irritating habits a dog can have.Although it seems counterintuitive to teach him to bark on command, it can actually make it easier to stop him when you want to. And, practiced regularly, it encourages your dog to refer to you before he starts barking—even if it’s only to see if a treat might be forthcoming.


Teach your pet to bark on command—and, once he’s mastered that, to stop
barking on request, too.To begin the exercise, you need a context where you know your dog will bark. Try not to speak other than to add the verbal cue at the right moment and to praise your dog when he gets it right. Use a clicker, if possible; it will help with the precision timing you need.


  1. Ask a helper to ring the doorbell. At the precise instant your dog starts barking, click the clicker and give him a treat. He’ll stop barking in order to eat the treat.
  2. Repeat several times—if your dog starts to look for the treat and forgets to bark, don’t treat him; wait until he barks. Try to get a sequence going: bell, bark, click, treat.
  3. After a short break, repeat the exercise, but this time, add a verbal cue—”Speak”—as he starts to bark, so the sequence is bell, bark, “Speak” (said just as you click), treat.
  4. Practice this for a few days until your dog is used to the sequence and has got the idea that it’s the barking that results in the click, the cue, and then the treat.
  5. Now practice moving the exercise away from the front door, using only the verbal cue. You can do this in stages, beginning at the front door with the doorbell, then trying just the verbal cue without the doorbell or the helper.

When your pet is barking to the “Speak” command, you can teach him “Shhh” to
stop barking.

That barking and stopping barking can be exercises performed for rewards. It may also teach him to be more selective about when he barks—and make it
slightly easier to stop him—but don’t expect this to apply at especially exciting

Practicing a start/stop exercise can help to break the pattern of annoyance
barking—and it’s a neat trick for your pet’s repertoire.


I'm a professional dog trainer who is sharing my journey as I transition to positive reinforcement based dog training methods.

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