Most people usually want to find out how to stop their Labrador barking, but for some, they want to do the opposite. Teaching your Lab to speak or bark is a fun trick that can also be useful in some circumstances.
In this article we are going to be explaining how to teach a Labrador to speak on command and why it can be useful. We are also going to be talking about issues you may come across during the training process.
The Benefits of Teaching Your Lab to Speak
Teaching your Lab to speak or bark is a great trick and it lets you get control over their voice. While this trick is not essential, there are some reasons why you should teach it to your Labrador. Let’s look at them below:
- Can help to control their barking – If you have a Lab that loves to bark at anything, you may want to teach them how to speak on command. When you train a dog to bark on command, you will find it easier to train them to be quiet.
- You can make your Lab bark when people come to the door – For some owners they want their Lab to bark when people come to the tour. Teaching your dog to speak on command is a one of the first steps to do this.
- Teach your Labrador to speak when they want something – Another benefit of training your dog to bark on command is that you can then teach them to do it when they want something. For example, you can train your Lab to bark when they want to go to the toilet.
- It’s fun – Training your Lab to bark on command is a fun trick. You can use it when you are playing games such as fetch or when you want to show off your dog’s impressive bark.
Helpful Tips for Training Your Lab to Speak
Below have listed some helpful tips that will make the training process easier for you.
Pick a Good Place to Train – It is incredibly important to establish a good training environment. Avoid any areas with lots of distractions as they will make it more difficult to train your canine companion. We recommend that you find a nice quiet room in your house that is reasonably small so you can keep your Lab’s attention fixed on you.
Use High Value Treats – Labradors love food, so get your hands on some high value treats to make the training process easier. Tasty treats such as chicken or pre-made dog treats will get your Lab more excited for training time and they will be more eager to do as you command.
Keep Training sessions Short – Always try to keep your training sessions under five minutes. If you make your sessions too long your Lab will get bored and distracted, which is frustrating for the both of you.
Make it Positive – Always make your training sessions a fun, positive experience and don’t make them into a chore. Try to think of the session as more of a game as this will make it more interesting for the both of you and your dog will look forward to future lessons.
What You Will Need
The only tool that you really need for this command is some high value dog treats. Small bits of chicken or dog treats such as these ones from Old Mother Hubbard are a great way to keep your Labrador’s attention fixed on you.
Alternatively, you can use a toy as a reward. Some dogs respond better to this, while others aren’t interested at all.
You will also need some kind of barking stimulus such as a doorbell, clicker (if your dog is trained to use one) or even a toy.
Training a Labrador to Speak
Now that you are all set to go, let’s look at how you can make your Labrador bark on command. Teaching a dog to speak is a fairly straightforward process and it shouldn’t take too much time.
In this guide we are going to be looking at a method called “capturing”. Capturing works by waiting for your Lab to do the desired action (in this case speaking), and then rewarding them for that action. You then match a signal word or sound to the action.
Your Labrador will eventually learn that they should do the action when you say the signal word. This is a common training method that is widely used for other tricks and commands.
Choosing a Signal
It is important to pick a simple signal that is short and snappy. This signal word or command should only be used for this specific action, so that your Lab doesn’t start barking when you want them to do something else. We personally use the world ‘speak’ with our dogs and will be using that in this guide. Other good words include ‘bark’ or ‘talk’.
Steps to Train a Lab to Bark on Command
The first thing you are going to want to do is to let your Labrador bark/speak naturally. This can be quite a difficult task for some dogs as they naturally aren’t barkers.
If you are struggling to make your Labrador bark, you may have to get creative. Try to find something that makes your dog bark such as a toy or game. For our boy Winston we used his favourite ball. We held the ball up high and because he wanted it, he barked.
Once you have got your Lab barking, start saying the signal word in a clear, upbeat manner when they do it.
Following this, praise your dog and give them a treat or throw them a toy/play a game with them. Show your Lab that you are really excited by what they did and remember to keep it fun.
Repeat these steps several times until your Labrador begins to match the signal word (“Speak”) to the action of barking/speaking. Most Labs will get this pretty quickly, but some dogs take a few training sessions to get the hang of it.
The next step is to use the word on its own. In a clear voice say “speak” and wait for your Lab to bark. If they do not bark repeat the signal word a few times, maintaining a clear voice.
If your Labrador still doesn’t speak on your command, go back to the earlier steps to reinforce the command.
Once your Lab does speak you have taught them the command! Remember to use it frequently to reinforce the command.
Common Questions When Training a Labrador to Speak
Below we have answered some common questions when teaching a Labrador to speak on command:
My Dog Keeps Barking When I Say the Signal Word
When you train your Labrador to speak on command it is important to only reward them when they do a single bark. If you reward your dog for barking lots, they will think that is what you want. If your Lab is doing this, you may have to retrain them by only giving them rewards when they do a single bark and ignoring them when they do multiple.
My Dog Won’t Bark at All, How Do I Fix This?
This is a tricky one as some dogs simply don’t bark at all. Our girl Daisy has only barked twice in her entire life and no matter what we do we can’t make her bark. If your Labrador is like this there isn’t much you can do.
For those that don’t have dogs like the above, but are still struggling, we recommend teasing them with a toy. Do this while you are playing a game of fetch or tug as your Lab will be focused on getting the toy off you. In one instance, we even put Winston’s ball in a tree to make him bark. While it may seem mean to do this, it is a quick and easy way to get your dog to bark and won’t hurt them.
Summary of How to Train a Labrador to Speak
Training your Labrador to speak/bark on command is a great fun trick and can be useful in some circumstances. If you are new to dog training there are plenty of other commands you should teach your Lab first, but this is a nice, easy one. Remember to keep training sessions fun and if your dog doesn’t want to bark, find a creative solution.