Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking or what they really want? Do you enjoy training your dog to do new tricks? Do you have to spell certain words because saying it gets your dog overexcited? Have you ever just wanted to have a talking dog?
(Image of Otter from whataboutbunny on Instagram)
These are just some of the reasons why people are choosing to teach their dog (or cat, horse, or other animal) to speak using programmable buttons. It takes patience and consistency, but providing your pup with a way to communicate with you is the best reward for your hard work.
How do you teach a dog to talk using buttons? Follow these steps.
What are buttons, anyway? They’re recordable devices that play up to a 30-second recorded clip when pressed. You can start cheap with a package of 4 buttons on Amazon (just search for “recordable button”).
While you wait for your buttons to arrive - or before you commit to the purchase - there are things you can do to prepare for teaching your dog to talk.
(Image of Bunny from whataboutbunny on Instagram)
Talk to Your Dog
Just as you talk to babies and toddlers to help them learn language, speak to your dog as much as possible. Simplify your sentences, be consistent with word choice, and repeat the key word or phrase 4-5 times. For example: “Do you need to go POTTY? We can go POTTY. Let’s go POTTY now.”
Take Note of Words They Know
If you have to spell certain words in front of your dog, those are words you should start with! Even if your dog simply picks up their ears and looks at you when you say the word, it could be a good choice for a first word.
Think of words like “potty,” “outside,” “walk,” “play,” “hungry,” “food,” or “water.” Choose 1-3 high-value words to start with.
Decide Where to Put Buttons
You might put each button near the thing it represents to start with, or you may start with all the words in one place, like the living room. The buttons should be in a place where most of the family spends most of their time so somebody is likely to be around to react to a button push.
Keep in mind that moving buttons after your dog learns them may set back their learning temporarily.
(Image of Stella from hunger4words on Instagram)
Start by recording a nonsense word on one of the buttons. Reward your dog for looking at it, sniffing it, or getting close to it. When they’re comfortable around the button, you can use a “shake,” “high five,” or similar task to get your dog to hit the button, then reward them.
Use the Buttons
Now it’s time to pair each button with its meaning. Make sure to start with buttons where you can do the “thing” immediately after they press the button. Many trainers recommend not starting with a food word since it could lead to overfeeding or your dog thinking that any button press means they will get fed.
At first, you will be the one doing all the button pressing. Hit the button, say the word, then do the action. For example, when it’s time for a walk, you hit the “walk” button, say, “WALK. Let’s go for a WALK!” Then immediately put on their leash and take them for a walk.
Your dog may need to see you hitting the buttons for days, weeks, or even months before they start hitting the buttons themselves. Don’t force your dog to hit the buttons to get the thing they want, because it may turn what should be a fun task into an annoying chore for your dog.
(Image of Lexi from chellelexihusky on Instagram)
Practice, Patience, and Persistence
Once you start using the buttons, it’s just a matter of being consistent and patient. Always hit the appropriate button before doing the “thing,” talk to your dog as much as possible, and acknowledge any button presses - even if they’re accidental. In fact, accidental button presses are equivalent to a baby babbling and help your pup understand the meaning behind each word.
Whether your pooch only manages to learn “outside” or they build a vocabulary of dozens of words, teaching them to talk should be fun for both of you, so keep at it. Who knows - you might have the next Stella, Bunny, or Lexi!
(Here are some talking dog videos from some of the top talking dog IG accounts. I’ll let you decide if/how to screen shot or embed the videos or whatever:)
-https://www.instagram.com/p/CYAS6_RBrQV/ (Hunger4Words, with Stella, the original talking dog!)
-https://www.instagram.com/p/CYrLlr2FS_J/ (whatabout Bunny, featuring Bunny and Otter. Bunny’s owner created FluentPet buttons and tiles for talking dogs)
-https://www.instagram.com/p/CYzAmSPhyKY/ (chellelexihusky, another great account)
-https://www.instagram.com/p/CYxfSTxg_fK/ (thechattylab. Copper is another good talking dog.)
And, just for fun…
-https://www.instagram.com/p/CYzKz5fqlIL/ (billispeaks, my favorite talking cat!)