I taught to bark on command by using frustration. When I got a bit of a bark from my dogs, I gave back a big fun reaction. We needed to teach the bark command for obedience training. We told the dog to bark and hold a helper while doing protection drills. In protection sports the dog is put on a harness and the helper (person in bite gear) teases the dog. The dog is allowed to pull but not allowed to move forward toward the helper. Eventually the dog will bark and the helper acts surprised and startled. That rewards the dog. After a few of those practices it is time to pair the word with the action.
At home I used a bit of play acting to build frustration and get the bark. I gave an odd command that my dog didn't understand with yummy rewards sitting nearby. My dog wanted to do what I asked but had not clue what I wanted. He made a small vocalization and I cheered and rewarded it. That is how I taught my dogs to "whisper" or "tell secrets". For a bark you can hold a treat up and away from the dog and try to clue the dogs in a "do you want this?" type of way. When the dog can't get it and finally vocalizes, cheer and reward! Just be ready in case your dog tries to jump up and get a reward. They may try a few different strong-arm ideas before he gives you a bark. Once you get the bark you might even be able to teach your dog to "count". My ridgie mix would count my fingers up to 5. Fun trick.
Also be patient. It takes some dogs time to find their voice. My big-boy caught on quickly. My gal-dog caught on just as fast but took longer to learn how to regulate her volume between a full on bark and a secret (soft vocalization). I've seen it go the other way as well, with snaps and rasps and the big bark coming later.
Patton CGC BH
Chief fetch fanatic
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