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You’ve probably seen those viral videos of dogs using buttons to “talk” to their humans—most famously Stella the Catahoula-Blue Heeler mix and Bunny the Sheepadoodle. Wondering if those buttons would work for your dog? We did too! So we decided to try them. With the help of Pepper the test pup, we reviewed the FluentPet talking buttons.
Our primary questions: Are Stella and Bunny creating unreachable expectations for the average person and their dog? Or can more pups and their humans get in on the talking button fun?
Getting Started with FluentPets Talking Dog Buttons
Since Stella and Bunny came onto the scene, multiple types of dog talking buttons have come on the market. We gravitated to the FluentPet buttons, which come in different configurations with batteries and foam placement mats included. They’re a more compact, buildable set than the other top dog talking buttons on the market—notably the large, colorful Hunger for Words buttons.
We reviewed FluentPet’s test kit, which includes two buttons and foam mats in blue and yellow, colors dogs can see.
What’s in the box:
- Two recordable buttons
- Two foam interlocking mats with six button slots each, suitable to fit more buttons into as you expand the set
- Brief getting-started card
FluentPet Testing Experience
I have to admit: I approached this review with enthusiasm and skepticism in equal measure.
I have fun teaching Pepper tricks. We’ve tried everything from complicated puzzle toys to indoor agility kits, and they’re great for bonding and enrichment. And I knew from our interview with certified dog behavior consultant Sara Richter that there’s a lot to be gained from dog talking buttons.
But I still had questions about how they could work in practice. For example, as my partner put it, “If they have the intelligence of a 2- or 2.5-year-old, does that mean they also have the impulse control of that age group?” Would Pepper have the discipline to learn to talk?
To get started, we used FluentPet’s Complete Guide to Teaching Dogs to Talk with Buttons. The basic stages are broken down into four parts: preparation, getting started, patience, and growth.
We began by practicing words that we use regularly—without buttons. Most households have a few of these, with dogs’ ears perking up at the words “walk” or “dinner,” for example. Note that you won’t want to train the word “treat,” even though your dog might have a promising start on learning it (endless requests for treats probably aren’t something you want to encourage).
In this step, you’re noticing the words that motivate your dog the most and reinforcing the link between them and the action they’re associated with. This is where you’ll also encourage other people in the house to use them clearly too. After experimenting, we settled on the words “outside” and “toy” (as in “bring your toy!”).
Next, we brought out the buttons. I toggled the switch on each button to record, said my word, then toggled it to its speaking mode. Now, when Pepper or I pushed the two buttons, they would say “outside” and “toy.”
I initially put the buttons in two different locations to help make the associations. The “outside” button went near the back door, where we let Pepper in and out throughout the day. The “toy” button was in the living room, where we usually play and have toys around. For this, we chose a particular toy to be the one to “appear” when she pawed the “toy” button: a stuffed and squeaky KONG squirrel.
In order to get your dog to start pawing at the talking button at all, you start by target training your dog—pointing to an item to get your dog to paw it or touch it with their nose. Pepper has already had some target training and has reviewed another toy that involves a button, so we were able to jump right into pointing and pushing.
Over the course of a few days, I modeled the behavior, pushing the button to “outside” and saying “I”m going outside!” myself. When Pepper would go to the back door, I would point to the button and wait for her to press it, then repeat something like, “You want to go outside?” and open the door to let Pepper out. After a while, she did this herself, stopping to push the button and look at me before I let her outside.
We followed a similar process with the “toy” button. When Pepper pushed the “toy” button, I would pop out the squirrel and toss it to her, asking if she wanted the toy, which she then usually played with for a bit.
In the process, she also tried to maul the button, turning the button itself into a toy, because much like a squeaky toy, I think she got some reward out of making the object make a noise.
I put a limit on how long I had the buttons out at first, then left them out longer to see if Pepper would start independently hitting the buttons to get my attention outside of our initial training sessions.
She did initially, but after a while, she seemed to forget about or ignore the buttons. That answered my earlier question—whether a dog would become obsessed with these buttons to the point that their lack of impulse control would become problematic. Clearly not my dog!
And the result of even just a few minutes of training in the first days left us with a very tired dog, an excellent reward for all.
While I’d like to say that I got my dog to “speak,” we are still only in the early stages. One thing I’d note is that doing this does require you to be “on” as a pet parent, more so than with other kinds of toys. If your dog is going to push the button for “play,” in order to reinforce that behavior, it’s important to be ready to hear the prompt and engage with your dog so they see the connection.
We found it can also take weeks and months of concentrated work to see progress—which means pet parents should consider whether they’re in this for the long haul.
FluentPet Talking Button Review: Final Verdict
Would we recommend the FluentPet dog talking buttons after our review? It depends! Based on functionality alone, these buttons are a high-quality choice to start your adventure with. They work right out of the box, and the short “Getting Started” pamphlet and the lengthy online tutorial provide excellent guidance on training.
These are, however, a pricier choice, particularly if you want to expand by buying more individual buttons or add more sets. Other talking button sets, such as Hunger for Words, offer more beginner buttons in one go, for example, and there are other brands as well.
The bigger question of whether you want to begin the journey of teaching your dog to talk, and all that that entails, is up to you. As a bonding exercise and brain game, Pepper and I enjoyed trying it out. However, Pepper seemed to lose interest after a while, which is consistent with the experience of some other reviewers—some dogs take right to the concept, while others are indifferent and would prefer other forms of training, such as nosework or agility.
Who would like the FluentPet buttons:
- Those who want buttons that are ready to go right out of the box
- Big pups—these sturdy buttons can stand up to a bit of pawing
- Patient pet parents looking for a challenge with their dog (or cat!)
- Those interested in leveling up communication with their pet
Who should look to other training activities:
- Dogs who aren’t motivated by puzzles and games
- Pet parents who have limited time to spend on training
- Dog Talking Buttons: Do They Really Work, and Should You Get Some?
- Teach Your Dog to Talk With the 5 Best Recordable Dog Buttons from Internet-Famous Pups
- Stella the Talking Dog: How Christina Hunger Taught Her Dog to Speak
- Are Puzzle Toys Really Good for Dogs? What the Science Tells Us