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You’ve likely seen the so-called “talking dogs” on TikTok and other social media channels. Videos show dogs pressing buttons to “speak,” using these multicolored buttons on a mat to supposedly communicate with their owners. In most videos, when the dog presses the button, a word or phrase is heard, and then the dog gets a round of applause and maybe a treat.
But are these dogs really talking? Or are they just playing with a fancy toy that they’ve learned results in a treat or pets if they behave a certain way?
Here’s what you need to know about the research that’s gone into these talking dogs, how you can buy dog talking buttons, and which one you might want to buy.
Our Favorite Dog Talking Buttons:
FluentPet Sound Button Kit
Talking Products Voice Recordable Talking Tiles
Learning Resources Recordable Answer Buzzers
Hunger for Words Talking Pet Starter Set
Mighty Paw Smart Bell
Boskey 6 Dog Button Set
Vimov Pet Training Bells
MyDogTalks Dog and Cat Communication Training Buttons
The Real Deal?
For a while, talking dogs received tons of attention both online and in publications such as the Washington Post and New York Times. Some of these featured dogs (do the names Stella and Bunny ring any bells?) boasted more verbal skills than others.
One of the dogs covered in the New York Times used multiple dog talking buttons and assistive technology to form very loose, primitive sentences. This dog’s owner claimed the dog understood and could “speak” nearly 100 words, more than the average toddler. Meanwhile, other dogs just pressed buttons correlating with whatever they wanted at the time; as another example, one dog was trained to press a button that said “outside” whenever they wanted to go outdoors.
Studies have been done to see whether these dog talking buttons really reflect a new canine mode of communication, or whether dogs are just learning a new skill that gives them a desired response. The jury still is out regarding the fine details and specifics, but one thing is for sure — whether or not dogs know they’re “talking” to us, they are communicating in a way.
Just like your pup may bark to alert you of someone at the door or whine for a treat, they can use these dog talking buttons to tell you what they want. (And, after all, isn’t that what we’re all doing when we talk? Forming a series of sounds that produce a desired result?)
8 Best Dog Talking Buttons
Dog and communication theory aside, how can you get some of these dog buttons for yourself and start teaching Fido to speak up? Here are a few favorite options.
FluentPet is probably the most well known brand in the dog communication space. The brand sells several different kits, from tester and starter kits to more robust kits that cost hundreds of dollars. The basic concept, though, is simple—and really applies to most dog talking buttons on the market.
To use your new kit, pick out the words you want to teach your furry friend. FluentPet recommends starting with words that your dog may already know or be familiar with, such as “treat” or “outside.” Then record that word onto a button and begin using the word as much as possible with your dog, in association with the action, item or place. Finally, incorporate the button, pressing it in association with the corresponding action, item or place.
In real life, this might look like recording “treat” onto one of the buttons. Then, whenever you give your dog a treat, you say “treat” several times as you do so. Then, start pressing the button instead of saying it as you give them a treat. You make this part of your routine and let the dog get used to it, and eventually, you might see them start using the button as well.
The most basic FluentPet kit comes with two talking buttons and a sheet of identifying stickers for the buttons. The buttons come with hex-shaped tiles that can be combined on the floor like a puzzle, with the buttons fitting inside, all on a non-slip surface. (The idea is to buy more buttons to fit into the tiles until you have a big mat filled with buttons for your dog to push.)
The largest FluentPet kit, available on Amazon, comes with 10 tiles and 32 communication buttons.
There are, of course, very similar products that do the same thing but that aren’t necessarily geared toward pet owners. These talking tiles, for example, are designed with kids in mind but do the exact same thing.
Each tile can record and playback up to 80 seconds of speech. You get six in a pack, and they can be mounted onto a wall or snapped together. Each also features a removable, clear cover, so you can insert images or printed labels, so you don’t get them mixed up.
Similarly, these buttons are meant for children and a classroom setting, but they could work for dogs, too. Plus, with these, you get a set of four recordable buzzers for a much more affordable price, compared to some of the other options on this list.
Each button records up to seven seconds of sound.
Another budget-friendly option, but one intended solely for pets, this set of four buttons comes with an easy, step-by-step guide. The guide was written by Christina Hunger, the same therapist mentioned in some of the media coverage above, who kicked off the “talking dog movement” with her dog, Stella.
Reviewers say the buttons are easy to use and a nice option to start with, especially if you don’t want to drop a lot of cash on one of the fancier options.
But let’s say that you don’t necessarily want to teach your dog how to talk, per se, but you do think it would be incredibly handy if your pup would learn how to press a button to tell you when they need to go outside. If that’s the case, the Mighty Paw Smart Bell is exactly what you need.
This singular button is designed to attach to a wall or door, within your dog’s easy reach. The dog presses the button when they’re ready to go outside and the bell rings to alert you. Just like the talking dog buttons, the bell will require some training, but if you only need a talking dog button for this one function, save yourself some extra trouble (and money) by just going with the smart bell.
Another budget-friendly option, this dog button set comes with six buttons in six different colors and a sheet of stickers that you can apply, printed with words such as “mom,” “dad” or “want.” Reviewers say that these particular buttons are louder, with better sound quality, and larger than some of the other options, as well as more durable. However, do note that these have no grippy underside, so they might slip around on slick floors.
Similarly to the Mighty Paw Smart Bell, this button is really just a bell and it only makes one sound rather than allowing you to make recordings. However, unlike the smart bell that’s designed for use by your door, to alert you that your pet needs to go outside, this bell is useful for overall training.
Just attach the silicon, non-slip bottom and set the wide, flat button down wherever makes the most sense, and then teach your pet to press the bell to alert you whenever they want a specific thing, whether that’s to go outside, a treat, food, water, you name it.
This option is probably the one that’s most similar to the original, highly ranked FluentPet kit. You get a set of recordable buttons that fit into an adjustable mat to keep the buttons in place, as well as a sheet of icon stickers to represent various words you might want to teach your dog, such as “car,” “door,” or “toy.”
You can choose between two kit sizes. The largest comes with three mats and 12 buttons, while the smaller comes with six buttons and no mats.
Dog Talking Button Troubleshooting
Already purchased your dog talking buttons and not seeing the results you want? Here are a few tips.
Patience, Patience, Patience
It’s incredibly important to be patient with your pup as they’re learning how to use the dog talking buttons. This is a brand-new skill for them, so they might not get it right away. Be encouraging, loving and patient, and you’ll see results faster.
Start Slow and Easy
Don’t throw too many new words at your pet at once. Go slow, with just a few words at a time. Make those beginning words some that your pet already knows, to make the process easier. That way, they’re not necessarily learning a brand-new word, they’re just getting accustomed to the brand-new buttons.
Teach by Showing
If your pet isn’t progressing as quickly as you might want, it could be because you’re expecting them to do all the hard work without modeling the behavior you want to see. Make sure you’re always using the buttons when using the corresponding words. This will show your canine companion that the button and the word go together and cement that correlation.
Hold off on Adding New Buttons
If your dog doesn’t have the hang of the existing buttons yet, don’t rush to add new ones. Only add new buttons into the mix once they fully understand how the existing buttons work.
Make Sure you Respond
Once your pup does start using the buttons, make sure you respond to them promptly. If your dog pushes the button for “outside,” take them outside. If they push the button for “treat,” give them a treat. Giving them the desired action will show them that using the buttons pays off.
Dog Talking Buttons FAQ
More questions? No time to sift through the above info? Here are answers to some of your most-asked questions.
Do dogs actually talk when they use dog talking buttons?
It’s up for debate. Some say that dogs can use dog talking buttons to show true communication skills. Others, however, consider successful use of the dog talking buttons to simply be a matter of good dog training.
Can other pets use dog talking buttons?
Yes! Many pet owners have used dog talking buttons to similarly train cats and rabbits.
How many words can a dog learn?
The record right now is around 100 words, or about the same vocabulary as a toddler.
Do I have to use dog buttons to teach my dog to “speak”?
Not necessarily. You can use other communication tools as well. The main thing is to look for something your dog can use as a “sign” to show you what they want.
Giving Fido a Voice of His Own
No matter how successful you and your favorite furry pal are in using your new dog talking buttons, the experience can be a valuable learning opportunity for both of you, as well as a bonding opportunity.
Need further reading on talking dogs? Read “How Stella Learned to Talk” by Christina Hunger, a speech-language pathologist with, yes, a talking dog, and be sure to check out the online resource TheyCanTalk.
The Best Dog Talking Buttons:
- FluentPet Sound Button Kit
- Talking Products Voice Recordable Talking Tiles
- Learning Resources Recordable Answer Buzzers
- Hunger for Words Talking Pet Starter Set
- Mighty Paw Smart Bell
- Boskey 6 Dog Button Set
- Vimov Pet Training Bells
- MyDogTalks Dog and Cat Communication Training Buttons