Teach your Dog to Say I Love You

Updated on January 17, 2012

Dog Training 101 - Learning to Speak

Have you ever seen those videos of dogs who are able to bark out phrases like "Rye Ruv Roo" in that characteristic Scooby Doo voice? Have you ever wondered how those people taught their dog a trick like that?

I was wondering the same thing, and decided—partly by accident—to see if I could get my dog Mukha to learn a few words!

When the Sirens Wail, so do the Dogs

Mukha, like many dogs, has the instinctual tendency to howl at ambulance or police sirens as they drive by, and I've never been one to get annoyed by this. In fact, I quite like to watch her yell out to what must, in her mind, be some lonely dog in the distance. On more than a few occasions, I've even howled along with her, which really prolongs the whole experience—much to my neighbor's delight!

After several of these performances, I noticed that she would often mimic the pitch of my voice. If I let out a low, quiet howl, then she would follow suit with a half-hearted baritone moan! She even started to copy my mouth movements, which is when I really thought it might be possible to squeeze a word or two out of those melodies!

Practice Makes Perfect

well, almost...

Seeing as how there are no shortages of sirens, we have quite a few opportunities to practice. Some days she's talkative, other days she won't have anything to do with it; but every now and then, the planets will align and she bursts out a heartfelt "I Love You"! I'm sure it's quite a bit of wishful thinking on my part, but it makes for a great party trick nonetheless.

The secret is to get into a back and forth dialog. Give the dog time to howl, and when she's taking a breath and gearing up for the next one, let out "I Love You"—or whatever phrase you are trying to teach—in your best howler voice. If the dog is watching you, she will pick up on your cadence and eventually try to mimic it. Dogs are not so eloquent with their articulation, but they can certainly get the R's and W's, so choose your words accordingly!

Don't Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training
Don't Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training

I'm a big fan of positive reinforcement when teaching Mukha a new trick, and there's no better guide to understanding how this works than Karen Pryor's book: Don't Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training. She really gets into the psychology behind PR, and how to get the best results without resorting to coercion. There's definitely more to it than just having a handful of treats at the ready. Check it out!


Famous Howlers

We're working towards this!

Mukha howling!

Mukha's choir - We think Mukha may have taught her friends how to howl!

It's always interesting to hear stories from fellow dog lovers!

Got any vocal training tips of your own? - Feel free to share.

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    • profile image

      Taitiyuanna 4 months ago

      I need to teach my dog how to say I love

    • profile image

      Savannah 12 months ago

      What happens if your dog doesn't howl

    • profile image

      CharliesMom1234 4 years ago

      I taught my Lhasa Apso how to say "I Love You," "Potty," "Yes," and "Mama" by accident. I noticed that he started to mimic me when I said these things to him and then rewarded him when he did. Now he uses them to tell me what he needs and throws in an "I Love You, Mama" whenever he wants a bit of extra attention or an extra special treat. I also found out by accident that he loves music and would try to mimic the pitch of the song when I sing the notes very slowly then over time go faster until it is the regular pace. He is quite good at singing along to "Amazing Grace" and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". He can also mimic other animal noises (ie: what does the cat say? "Meow" in a high pitch, can also do cow, goat, bird chirp and wolf howl). He also uses body language quite well. After teaching him how to shake, he uses his paw to grab my hand and pull me in the direction he wants me to go just like I do when I want him to follow me. I have found he can count in this way and if I say a number he will tap my hand the same number of times, even if I try to trick him. He also knows how old he is this year, how old he will be next year and how old he was last year the same way. The highest number we have been successful counting to is 10. He can do the hokey pokey, jump through hoops, and play patty cake in the correct order of paw to hand taps. I can't take credit for teaching him any of this deliberately though and am definitely not an expert on dog training. I think all one needs to do is really pay attention to their pet and reward them when they are trying to communicate in a way we can understand. Honestly, he has taught me far more than I have ever taught him.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      all my dog can say is hi and i love you but that's good well not good i mean ok

    • Englishmastiffe profile image

      Englishmastiffe 5 years ago

      I have never had any real success training my dogs with this. The only thing that seems to work is saying no in German.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I'm sorry to hear that.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      When thee dog does it it sounds scary as

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      my dog only howls what should i do!!! he wont say i love you,hi,or even mama please help me

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i wish my dog could say "I love you" back to me when i say it :D

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      i taught my yorkie it but it is hard for her to howl... :(

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I taught my chihuahuahow to say it but with a slightly different method. I say home in a quite room and started.with the speak command and barking at him. Then I turned it in to howling slightly I ruv rue. He caught infast and because he mimicka, its easy to teach him anything.

    • MissPuppy profile image

      MissPuppy 8 years ago

      Very cute! I would love my dog to say "I love you".

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Nice site!

    • wyrm11268 profile image

      wyrm11268 8 years ago

      What a lovely lens. The video of the dog saying I love you is so funny. How is Mukha doing with her talking? We have tried with Dachshund Luke but so far just doggy noises.

      Can't wait to see Mukha's video.


    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I don't think our Miss Pitty Pat the English Bulldog has it in her to say I Love You but I know she does. This is a great lens. I am lensrolling to my Doggie Birthday Party.

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      MyChildCreatesowner 9 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your lens. I actually taught my dalmatian to say "I love you" when she was around 2 yrs old. Haven't encouraged her to say it lately but im sure she remembers. It is a great skill to show off at dog events!! and to your friends and family. My dog just naturally enjoyed learning new skills and with the little help of some yummy dog treats she was a very eager student.

      Thanks for the great lens!

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      Tim_Link 9 years ago

      This is a very interesting lens. You share a lot of helpful information here. When you get the chance, I'd love it if you'd stop by my lens on communicating with animals and say hello.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      I love the fact that this lens is so personal! Blessings to you and Mukha.

    • funface profile image

      funface 9 years ago

      Thanks for the great feedback everyone! It's always fun waking up to fresh comments :)

      I got a great video of Mukha talking last night! I'll post it after a bit of editing.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 9 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I love these photos! And that video is a hoot! At 11 years old, I'm not sure if I could teach my Sassafrass Tea (or Sassy) any new tricks, but she says she loves me about every five minutes, usually by putting her cheeck to mine and moaning. She gives hugs too. Thanks for an enjoyable lens. :)

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      bdkz 9 years ago

      My name is Bonnie and I’m a Giant Squid Community Organizer here on Squidoo. I think you’ve got a quality lens on your hands and should check out the Giant Squid Program! Giant Squids are the best-of-the-best on Squidoo and get some amazing perks.

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      ttwee 9 years ago

      Nice stuff! I like your funny narration. :)

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      Sojourn 9 years ago

      That Letterman video sold me. What a riot! Nice lens and great pics!

    • Jaebird88 profile image

      Jaebird88 9 years ago

      Great lens. Loved the pictures.


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      Joan4 9 years ago

      Delightful! I love Mukha!

    • anji lm profile image

      anji lm 9 years ago

      Hey! great pics ;) Mukha is the best! We gotta get a good video of her howling! (oh, by the way, you took the pic of her 'jowling'! (with my artistic direction, of course!))