Imagine your dog telling you something like, "Why don't you fetch your own newspaper?" or, "Clean my water bowl so I won't drink from the toilet." Thankfully, teaching your pit bull to speak should entail much politer discussions.
Arm yourself with the right type of "doggie currency." What treat motivates your pit bull to do your bidding? Many drool at the smell of liver treats; others prefer meat, cheese or peanut butter. Some may skip the treats for a chance to play a vigorous game of tug-of-war. It is up to you as the dog's owner to find what is at the top of your companion's hierarchy of rewards. Keep in mind that this breed is not typically very vocal -- unlike many other breeds out there -- so you may need to invest in super-special treats to motivate him to bark.
Show your pit bull the treat or toy he cherishes the most. Afterward, tease him in a friendly manner and suddenly hide the toy or treat behind your back. The frustration built up from not having the treat or toy will stimulate him to bark. When he barks, immediately praise and reward by giving him the reward you were keeping away from him in the first place. Repeat several times and start introducing the "speak" command so your dog associates it with the act of barking.
Train your pit bull to STOP barking. Training your pit bull to bark on command has a bonus feature that makes it well worth the effort: the shush command. Basically, once your pit bull has mastered the speak command, after two or three barks, say "shush" and immediately praise and reward with doggie currency. With practice, patience and persistence, you can use the speak command to impress your friends or train your pit bull to bark under certain circumstances, while you can use the "shush" command to stop your pit bull from barking when it is unnecessary or inappropriate.
- If your pit bull engages in excessive barking, investigate whether his behavior may stem from anxiety, boredom, loneliness or fear.
- Tying your pit bull up safely during the initial stages of training may increase his level of frustration and make barking more likely.
- Make the training sessions brief and fun, and always end them on a positive note.
- When taught correctly, the speak command can considerably reduce barking since the act is better under control.
- Proof the speak command by asking it in different places and under different circumstances.
- Avoid rewarding your pit bull for barking when not asked to.
- Don't yell at your pit bull for barking; use the shush command instead.
- Not all dogs respond to frustration by barking. If your pit bull typically barks when the doorbell rings, use it to your advantage by having a helper ring it so you can praise and reward for barking during speak training.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.