Teach a Doberman to Speak on Command—The Easy Way

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Doberman sitting and barking on command of the owner.

Getting your Doberman to bark on command is not only a fun trick to teach, but it’s also surprisingly useful. The method that I’ve finally settled on using for teaching this behavior to my Dobermans (and my clients) seems to work the quickest and most reliably for this particular breed. Luckily, the Doberman breed is easy to train if you appeal to their specific instincts, and that’s what this method does, which is why it works so quickly.

How to Teach a Doberman to Speak on Command

  1. Choose your ‘speak’ command.
  2. Figure out what naturally makes your Doberman bark.
  3. Create conditions likely to elicit a bark.
  4. Mark a bark with your choosen command.
  5. Praise and Reward.
  6. Repeat and reinforce.

Those are the simple steps, but that’s a lot more to it than that. For example, which command you choose to use can have a big effect on how useful this trick is for you.

Fair warning, while these steps might work for other breeds, this technique is specifically designed for Doberman Pinschers and you’ll have far better, and faster, results with it if you’re working with a Doberman.

Teaching Your Doberman to Bark on Command

Here’s what you need to know to teach this command as quickly as possible to a Doberman Pinscher. Remember that the basic approach here is to elicit the response using a few key triggers that works great for this breed, mark it with your command, and then reinforce it by building a habit of the appropriate response (Dobermans love habit and it’s a big part of what makes them so trainable).

Step 1 – Choose Your ‘Speak’ Command and Visual Cue

The first step is to choose what command you’ll use when you want your dog to bark. There are many options out there but the table below has some of the most popular.

Gib Laut (“Speak” in German)LoudAngry
Various options and alternatives to the “speak” command.

When choosing a command, it’s important to remember that a sharp and abrupt command is better, and more easily recognized, for a Doberman. Choosing a command that sounds unique as compared to any other commands the dog knows will also help.

Don’t forget that training your Doberman to bark on command can be useful beyond just being a fun trick to show your friends and family. It can help ward off potential attackers, and even make potty training easier (by asking your dog to “speak” every time before you take them out to go to the bathroom, they’ll learn to bark at the door when it’s time to go).

I’ve always chosen the word “guard” for my Dobermans, I find it fits many of the requirements for a good command while also having the added protection benefit. If my wife is walking our dog in the evening and someone is bothering her, she can yell a firm “guard!” at our Doberman. When the potential attacker hears this command and our large Doberman starts barking like crazy, it’s sure a lot more intimidating than if she had yelled, “speak”. They certainly won’t know the difference and probably won’t want to find out.

Visual Cue

One of the modifications to this training technique that is specifically for the Doberman breed is to include some sort of visual cue. Dobermans love a visual cue. It can be a specific wave, hand gesture, posture, or combination. For me, I choose the “guard” command for the verbal cue and a closed fist held up in front of me as the visual cue.

Giving my Doberman the visual cue of a balled-up fist in front of me which my dog knows to mean “speak”.

Step 1 – Figure Out What Naturally Makes Your Doberman Bark

The next step is to figure out how you’re going to get your Dobie to bark so that you can associate the command you’ve chosen with this action. If you know your dog well, you should be able to recreate conditions you know will cause him or her to bark.

In case you’re having trouble, below are some common ways owners can elicit a bark out of their Doberman while training this command.

Getting Your Doberman to Bark

  • Tug-of-War – Sometimes an intense game of tug of war with your Doberman can get a bark out of them. Try getting your dog excited as much as possible during the game, taking the tug toy away from them, staring your pup in the eyes, and encouraging a bark.
  • Jump with Excitment – This is a great fall back if you’re not sure what makes your dog bark. Hold a toy or treat away from your dog, jump up and down, barking at your dog yourself. This feels very awkward but if you get your Dobie excited enough, chances are they’ll eventually let out a bark.
  • Staring in the Eyes – Some Dobermans will react naturally with a bark if you slowly stare at them in the eyes, lingering, and even slowing putting your face closer and closer to theirs. Don’t ask me why this happends, but it seems to be instinctual to this breed.
  • Wrestling – For many owners, they can get a bark out of their Doberman if they get down low, pound the ground with their hands, and encourage their dog to wrestle with them. This will often send the dog into and excited frenzy and get at least a few barks out of them.

Whatever you need to do to get that initial bark out of your dog is fair game, when in doubt don’t think about what you need to do to get a bark, think about how you can get your dog as over-the-top excited as possible that a bark naturally comes.

Step 2 – Create Conditions Likely to Elicit a Bark

Ok, now you’re really ready to start training. You know what command you’re using and what will get a bark. Now it’s time to do it. Have some training rewards ready (if your Doberman is food motivated), and get that first bark out of them.

If you’re using the “jump with excitement” method above, start jumping around and barking at your dog. You’ll feel ridiculous but that’s ok. While doing this, I usually encourage the bark by saying things like “Come on boy! WOOF! WOOF! Come on! YES! Good boy!” while jumping around.

Step 3 – Mark a Bark with Your Choosen Command

As you’re going through your process of creating conditions likely to get that bark, you should know about when your dog is going to release that “woof!” Just before your dog does, give the speak command you’ve chosen. Making it loud and clear so that the command doesn’t “blend in” with the other words you’re saying while encouraging the bark.

While it’s preferable to time things so you give the command immediately before the bark comes, another option is to give the command immediately after they release a bark. This is good to do if you’re having trouble timing this.

“Another option is to ‘mark’ your Dobie’s barking with a clicker along with the command you’ve choosen. If your Doberman is used to clicker training then this could be a great way to mark the good behavior very quickly, improving the speed of command comprehension.”

– John Walter (DobermanPlanet.com)

Step 4 – Praise and Reward

As soon as your dog barks and you’ve marked the action with your command, it’s time to praise and reward like crazy. This should be a “jackpot” initially of a high-value treat or multiple treats along with heavy praise from you. I also like to toss in one “good bark!” in there, if the command I choose was “bark”.

It’s not clear whether Dobermans can make the association of “good (command)” while training, but I certainly feel like it speeds up training time.

Dobermans instinctually want to please and have a “task to accomplish”. Keep that in mind while praising and rewarding them. Show how pleased you are and relieved that the task you assigned your dog was well executed. This sometimes subtle approach to rewarding works wonders with Dobermans specifically.

Step 5 – Repeat and Reinforce

Like with any command it’s important to repeat and reinforce the command or your dog will lose this skill. Around dinner or breakfast time before your dog is allowed to eat their food is a great time to reinforce commands such as “speak”.

Remember to increase the difficulty of what you’re asking your dog slowly after they have a solid understanding of the basic command. Start requesting longer barking sessions before you praise and reward. Or try giving the command from across the room. It’s important to always be challenging your Doberman and “upping the bar”. This is something they instinctually enjoy doing anyway.

Doberman barking at the park.
My Doberman Arlo is naturally more likely to bark at the dog park. That’s a great place to teach him the speak command.

Using a Clicker

As I mentioned earlier, teaching a Doberman to bark on command through the use of a clicker to mark good behavior is certainly a sound approach. The key here is whether or not your dog already associates the “click” sound with a job well done.

If you’ve used a clicker for training in the past then the chances are they will make that association and it would certainly make sense to include the use of the clicker here. However, I wouldn’t begin clicker training using this bark command.

For more information on training your Doberman in general, including incorporating the use of a clicker, see my complete Doberman training guide here.

Avoid Making Unwanted Barking Worse

The danger of teaching the bark command is that Dobermans are certainly a habit-forming breed. They’re also a vocal breed. So if you’re going through this process, it can be easy for your Dobie to confuse what they learn to mean “my owner loves it any time I bark!”

If that is the association your dog makes, then you have the potential of creating a barking problem or making an already existing one worse.

Here are some things you can do to help prevent this from creating a barking issue in your Doberman:

  • Only praise and reward your dog when they bark on command. Never when they’re barking on their own.
  • Train a “quiet” command so you can stop excessive barking on command.
  • Avoid teaching the speak command by marking negative barking with the command and rewarding. Only teach this command when you elicited the barking behavior from your dog.
  • Once you give the command and your dog barks, make sure the barking doesn’t continue until you give another command. In other words, shut down any “run-away” barking.

If you want some ways to stop the unwanted barking in a manner that works extremely well with Dobermans, see my article 6 Steps to Get Your Doberman Pinscher to Stop Barking.

Teaching a Quiet Doberman

In general, most Dobermans are not quiet dogs. As a protection breed, Dobermans bark a lot as an alert to their owners. But on occasion, some owners with very well socialized, stoic, and calm Dobermans will have an issue teaching this command simply because their dog is so content being non-vocal.

In order to get a relatively quiet Doberman to bark, you might need to break the rules and use one of the tactics from the “Avoid Making Unwanted Barking Worse” section above. Luckily for you, if you have a naturally quiet dog, it’s very unlikely that you’ll create a barking problem.

Try simply being incredibly patient and waiting for one of the opportunities to arise when your Doberman does bark, even if they are incredibly rare. When your dog does, quickly give your chosen command loud and firm, then praise and reward like crazy. Maybe having a friend ring the doorbell will do it.

Another option is to simply up the value of the training treat you’re using. Show your Dobie the treat, and then use the “Jump with Excitement” option above to elicit a bark. Sometimes hamburger meat or a slice of American Cheese will do the trick when other rewards won’t.

Final Thoughts

Teaching a Doberman to speak on command is a relatively straightforward behavior to teach. The most difficult part can be eliciting the initial bark at the right time while training this command. If you can do that simply by knowing what behaviors you can do to naturally trigger your Dobie to bark, then you should be well on your way.

Don’t forget to consider making the speak command useful in some way such as with potty training or by making it a “guard” command that can fool a potential attacker into thinking you have a vicious guard dog, and not just a sweet pup who’s trying to “speak” for their master.

John Walter and Cooper, his Doberman Pinscher.

About the author

John Walter is a Family Doberman Specialist, holds a CPD certification in Canine Communication, and is an active dog trainer specializing in the Doberman Pinscher breed. He's been quoted in Doberman Network Magazine, Bark Magazine, Doberman Dispatch, and he's the founder of Doberman Planet. Learn More

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