Can a device help your pet to “speak”?
FluentPet uses a combination of HexTiles or hexagonal tiles and recordable sound buttons that helps your dog to communicate with you. At present, the methodology is not backed by scientific proof to support its efficacy. But the brand claims that the system of organized buttons can help dogs to communicate their needs.
Unlike the other similar products available in the market, FluentPet is designed with pets in focus. In fact, its mechanism is inspired by speech-language pathologist Christina Hunger’s work with her pet Stella. The success of the tool has been proven by the ‘talking’ dog Bunny, who enjoys a massive social media following.
FluentPet was launched in 2019 and the system was designed by Leo Trottier, a cognitive scientist. The core idea focused on using the technology to communicate with non-verbal children for communicating with dogs. The goal of the brand is to develop tools that allow us to communicate with our non-human friends. The Fluentpet team collaborates remotely from various locations in the US and Canada.
In this FluentPet Review, we take a closer look at the tool to discover how effective it is.
- A customizable system
- Available in three progressive versions
- Based on the research conducted by the Comparative Cognition Laboratory at the University of California
- Comes with anti-slip tiles to keep the buttons organized
- A high-quality kit that offers excellent durability
- It is pricey
- It needs time and patience to work
- The technology is not scientifically proven
- Some users complained of delays in delivery
FluentPet: Features & Benefits
The Science Behind FluentPet
To start with, let us take a look at the science behind FluentPet.
The system design including the talking buttons and tile arrangements is based on speech-language pathology and cognitive science. Organizing the buttons based on word category helps animal learners to start by locating the buttons. With gradual progress, they can locate the buttons more specifically.
Basically, the method is based on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). The brand also took inspiration from the Fitzgerald Key. This device was designed in 1900 by Edith Mansford Fitzgerald to help individuals with hearing disabilities.
The concept has been used for decades to help children and adults with speech or language problems. AAC uses various methods and tools to facilitate communication without speech. FluentPet adopts the method of using visual symbols in the form of button boards.
However, the purpose of the HexTiles is not just to hold the buttons in place, but also to organize them as per word category. The idea is to create a specific visual pattern around the words from the same category. This allows learners to remember the button location and also to recognize the words in a common group.
The FluentPet kit also includes an ideogram sticker sheet. These are used to label the buttons with unique visual cues. While you can’t expect your pet to understand each sign, it can help them to differentiate between various buttons.
To help in making a distinction between buttons, FluentPet uses form, shape, layout, and visual-spatial frequency. FluentPet states that this type of arrangement works better than arranging sound buttons in a plain cartesian grid.
How Does It Work?
The FluentPet Get Started Kit comes with six talking buttons and three hexagonal tiles. Beyond that, there are the Basic Vocab and the They Can Talk kits which come with 12 and 32 buttons respectively. A more basic kit is also available in the form of a Tester Kit.
FluentPet uses a flexible system to accommodate pets of large and small breeds. The buttons require minimum pressure for activation. For larger dogs with bigger paws, more space between buttons can be kept. That allows the dogs to get more precise as their skill increases.
Both the buttons and the hex pads are high quality. The nonslip design also allows you to use them easily on a wooden floor without the tiles moving around. Even when my cat runs over the tiles, they never move. When it comes to durability, the device will easily withstand wear and tear for years.
That said, some FluentPet reviews mentioned malfunctioning of the buttons. Thankfully, the FluentPet customer service is responsive and offers quick resolutions. The product comes with a warranty of 180 days.
A big plus of FluentPet is, the system is easy to set up. You can record sounds in the buttons by putting them in the record mode. The recording quality is loud and clear. Then you can arrange the buttons to create a soundboard. There are top-grade speakers inside the HexTile base to deliver clear sound.
FluentPet suggests starting with simple keywords like “water”, “love you”, “Mama”, “all done”, and “outside”. Then you can organize the words into categories by using the provided stickers. The unit is battery operated and batteries are included in the kits.
Some users had a hard time choosing the first words to start with. If FluentPet’s suggestions do not work for you, it’s best to choose words your pet is familiar with. It is recommended that you start with a single tile and button and progress gradually.
In addition, there is the newly launched FluentPet Connect System that supports WiFi connectivity. This allows you to capture and track the progress of the learners by using your smartphone. You can even send high-fidelity audio to the speaker to communicate with your pet.
If you are wondering where to start, FluentPet has got you covered. The kits come with effective tips and suggestions about using the buttons. You can also join a community that includes other teachers and learners to get help.
Other than that there are other online resources that will help you to progress. There is also a FluentPet Guide Program that allows you to share your pet’s progress while using the device on social media.
I have used FluentPet on Gizmo, my cat, for two months. In this period, I never noticed any purposeful pressing of the buttons that is Instagram-worthy. While the guidelines provided by FluenPet were helpful, at times I improvised to customize the training in my own way. But the tool has definitely made me more aware of his body language.
A wide-scale study is being done at the University of California involving the HowTheyCanTalk participants. By evaluating more data, researchers are trying to find out whether the animals are pressing the buttons with any meaningful intent. Hopefully, this study will lead to an in-depth exploration of the subject of interspecies communication.
Things to Consider Before Buying
It goes without saying that the use of FluentPet requires patience and time at the owner’s end. So do not expect immediate results. The progress of your pet can depend on various factors, including breed and age. Young animals with a history of training may pick it up more quickly. If you have faith in the method FluentPet uses, you should keep trying.
You can also consider the success Alexix Devine had with Bunny, a young Poodle mix. In one instance, Bunny pressed the words mad, ouch, stranger, paw in succession to indicate discomfort from some foxtails lodged in her paw.
While many owners have posted related FluentPet reviews, it is best to keep realistic expectations. Keep in mind, experts mention that we can not expect animals to understand the exact meaning of the words.
It is possible that pets are pressing the buttons as they expect something good to be associated with it. While FluentPet can help in communication, do not expect pets to understand you and reply back or initiate a conversation.
Experts also point out that the behavior of dogs like Stella, can be explained in different ways. So more rigorous evidence is required to prove that dogs really press buttons with the same intention that owners want them to.
What Kind of Pets Can Use FluentPet?
FluentPet is primarily designed for dogs and cats. I also feel that the buttons are best suited for the paws of members of canine and feline families. That said, some FluentPet reviews mention that pet owners have tried using the device to train reptiles. FluentPet also claims to have used button communication with birds and horses.
Which FluentPet package is right for me?
For beginners, it’s best to start with the basic kit and check how it works out. If you feel your pet is making strides in their development, you can choose the Basic Vocab Kit in the next stage. The They Can Talk Kit is the most expensive option that you can pick. While it comes with a larger collection of buttons, it is only suggested more pets with a real talent for communication.
If you want something simple and more affordable, try the Tester Kit. It comes with two buttons and two compact Hextiles.
Most FluentPet reviews and opinions about the product are positive. While some pet owners did not experience much success with button pressing, they have reported better communication with their pets after using the device.
For example, there are users who have tried to make their dog learn to use the word “potty,” However, their dog hasn’t used the button even once in two weeks.
On the other hand, some users have mentioned that their dog was able to start using eight buttons within a month of training.
That brings us to the end of this FluentPet review.
The ability to communicate with animals can be a great tool that can help us provide better care for them. It can even save their lives in an emergency. In addition, the process will also help us to form closer emotional ties with our pets.
Having said that, the technology will not turn us into Dr, Dolittle anytime soon. More research is needed to understand how effective AAC is with animals.
Even so. FluentPet is one of the best tools in the market to help you connect with your pet in a better manner. Over 40000 FluentPet kits have been sold and the ongoing research will help in further developing the product in time.
Besides, the quality and sound reproduction of the Fluenetpet kits is top-notch. The fact that the buttons can be customized, is another plus. All in all, it is a great tool to help you connect with your pet in a more wholesome manner.