Choosing your buttons

We recommend getting started by ordering a kit from FluentPet! They've developed specialized buttons and matching tiles to make setting everything up as easy as possible,
and to maximize the probability of success with your learner.

Note: You do not need to use FluentPet buttons to participate in our animal language
learning study
. Any voice buttons will do for the purpose of our research. However,
unlike other voice buttons, FluentPet's were specifically designed for use by household
pets—small and durable enough to accomodate chatty learners with ever expanding vocabularies, while minimizing the space taken up in your home.

Keeping the goal in mind

What makes all of this possible is that dogs pay us very close attention, can recognize
the words we use, can press buttons, and (it seems) can recognize the sounds that the buttons produce.

What you're trying to do is create a strong association in your dog's mind between
two things:

  1. particular activities or things that matter to your learner and

  2. particular buttons that, when pressed, make the sound of a word that corresponds
    to those particular activities or things

Getting started

Creating a helpful learning environment

Here are three steps based on those that Christina Hunger recommends:

  1. Make sure you're talking to your learner all the time

We know that dogs are able to understand the meanings of different words. The late Professor John Pilley's dog Chaser could understand the meanings of more than 1000 words, including simple verbs.

When you're modeling a word, you want to use it repeatedly, in context, without adding different conjugations. So if you're trying to model PLAY, then when you're about to play with your learner, say "Do you want to play? Ok let's play! Play play play!"

You want the phrases you use to be simple, clear, and easy to understand. Avoid speaking quickly. You will want to repeat your learner's words frequently immediately before and during the action that they correspond to.

2. Pay close attention to the words you're using

The best words to start with are those that refer to things your learner cares about. Watch the way you speak about things, and notice if there are particular ways that you are already referring to objects or activities that matter to them. Do you say "treat" or "cookie"? Do you say "eat" or "hungry"? Do you say "play" or "have fun"? Figure out which it is that you use more, and that your dog seems to recognize, and use that one exclusively. This will be the word you end up recording into one of your buttons.

3. Model: use their buttons!

Dogs can learn by watching, also known as mimicry. When you are working to model a new word or concept for your learner, say the word, then press the button it corresponds to. This routine of saying a word or phrase, pressing the corresponding button or buttons, and then either directing your learner's attention to an object ("ball!") or engaging in the action you've just described, is called modeling. Speech language pathologists call this Aided Language Input.

What's next?

We also recommend checking out Do's and Don'ts, Tips and Tricks, as well as the stages your learner will likely proceed through at first. Then, be sure to check out the word sequence list.