Pet talking buttons can help you communicate with your dog by reinforcing certain actions and associating them with sounds and pictures. The buttons do work but they require continuous and consistent effort on your part. You can teach your dog familiar words like outside, walk, and play.
There’s a lot of hype around the Fluent Pet talking buttons and a quick search will yield hundreds of results of people saying how it’s changed their lives and the lives of their pets. The question is, do they really work, or is it all hype?
According to the company, they’ve taken a strictly scientific approach and use research to determine the language abilities of animals. The goal of this guide is to help break any myths about pet talking buttons and help you understand the truth.
If you’ve never heard of Clever Hans, it’s a book by Oskar Pfungst. If you’ve never heard of Oskar Pfungst, don’t worry, we haven’t either but we’ll help you understand the significance of this.
This book is based on historic research on the psychological connection between humans and animals. In the case of this study, a horse was used and the researcher asked the horse to perform math equations.
The horse would then tap his hoof the total number of times to equal the answer. If the question was 1+1, the horse would tap twice.
Based on this research, it was determined that the ability of Hans the horse to understand had very little to do with actual understanding of the language itself. It had everything to do with the horse’s ability to read human actions.
For example, the researchers noted that Hans could feel that the humans around him were nervous until he reached the correct number and then relaxed. As a result, he would continue to tap his hoof until he felt the release of tension.
The end goal of this study was not to prove that the horse was smart or that the trainer could teach him to do things, it was simply to understand whether or not animals could learn to respond and provide answers to basic questions.
Why is This Story Important?
Why do we tell you this story and what does it have to do with the talking buttons? The point is to help you understand that your dog is never necessarily talking to you, they’re simply doing something with the hope of getting a certain reaction the same way Hans did.
If your dog pushes the “outside” button enough times and each time they do, you get up and take them outside, they’ll eventually associate that button and sound with the action they want.
Do Pet Talking Buttons Work for All Animals?
Right now, they’re most popular with dogs and cats but we want to dive a little deeper. Within the canine model, do they work for every dog?
Does your dog need to have certain characteristics in terms of age, breed, and behavior for the buttons to work?
According to the science and design behind the buttons, no. Any dog can learn to use the buttons but their response and ability to pick it up will drastically depend on each individual dog. Just like humans, dogs all learn at different speeds and some may have a much harder time grasping it than others.
Understanding the Design
The Fluent Pet buttons are designed in a very specific way and organized in hex tiles. This isn’t done for appearance reasons or to be cute, there is science behind this as well. Each hex tile is organized by word category and it uses something called Augmentative and Alternative Communication.
This philosophy dates back to the early 1900s and a woman named Edith Mansford Fitzgerald. She was a deaf American teacher who used a hex board to communicate with her students.
By organizing the buttons into hex tiles, it makes it easier for learners to tell certain buttons apart from the other through the use of different colors. Dogs have a limited ability to identify color so the colors used have been carefully chosen and are distinguishable for dogs.
In addition to colors, sections, and hex tiles, each button comes with an image on it which makes it easier for your dog to remember. Instead of having to push the buttons until they figure out which one is right, they can look at the image and associate it with a previous action it created.
Since it’s clear that dogs do not understand what the image is, it’s mainly designed to help them separate each button from the next. Because of this, the images are very different from one another in terms of size, layout, and form. This is called spatial frequency.
If you’d like to know if the Fluent Pet talking buttons work for certain, the only way to know is to purchase a starter kit and test it out for yourself. By starting with one button, your dog can easily grasp that every time they push the button, they’ll achieve a certain action.
Keep in mind that every dog learns at a different pace and some may never be able to get it, it all comes down to having patience and realizing that they’re mainly relying on you to reinforce the action.
When your dog pushes the button, you need to make sure you take that action every time. If the button says “outside,” keep it near the door. If the button says “food,” keep it near the bowl.
It’s exciting to think we can have communication with our dogs but it’s not so much that your dog is actually talking to you, they’re just creating a chosen action that they’re familiar with. Either way, it’s pretty cool!