It's always a lot of fun to teach your pets new tricks, and teaching them how to talk is no exception! Talking buttons are an easy way to get started. However, there are some things you should avoid when teaching pets to talk with buttons, and steering clear of some common mistakes will lead to more success. That's why we've put together this article about 4 things not do when teaching dogs, cats, and other pets how to speak using a talking button set.
1. Hand-over-paw training
The method of hand over paw training involves grabbing the animal’s paw and guiding it to a button. The problem is that your pet doesn’t really know what’s going on.
Instead, show them how the button works and let them figure out what happens when they press it. If your pet knows that something good happens after pressing a button, then they will be more willing to do it themselves.
In addition, hand over paw training can make your pet very upset and confused. They might not willingly press the button, and this might lead to a lack of progress.
2. Introducing a “treat” button too early
One common mistake is introducing the TREAT button too early in the process.
A pet will think that their buttons are for tricks they can perform for a reward, not communication. Your dog won't understand that their talking buttons are in reality for two-way communication with their favorite humans.
Introducing a "treat" button too early in the process often creates misconceptions about a pet’s talking buttons that owners then have to unteach. They'll just assume that their talking buttons are for getting whatever they want, and realizing they’re not might even be enough of a let down that they lose interest in talking button training.
Not to mention, if you don’t have an ALL DONE button, constant treat requests can get out of hand!
Disclaimer: No Two Pets Are the Same!
However, if your pet is very treat-motivated, and you know they won’t have much interest in training unless treats are in the picture, by all means start with a TREAT button! Not starting with TREAT is a warning we often give, but many talking dogs and talking cats have had no problems moving on to new words after learning TREAT. In fact, associating the buttons with treats might be what first gets your pet excited about their talking buttons!
3. Not speaking to your pet enough
Another common mistake is not speaking to your pet enough. Talking buttons can be a lot of fun, but it might not be worth it if you aren't speaking to your pet at the same time.
Even before getting buttons, you should be exposing your pet to plenty of spoken language — even if it’s just the two of you. Much like infants, your pet still needs plenty of verbal interaction in order to grow and learn.
When you tell your dog a story using all their favorite words, do they get excited? If they do, this means you’re already talking to your dog a lot! Much of why owners have so much success with talking buttons is that their pets know lots of words already, and likely would say them if they had the proper mechanics.
4. Making too many assumptions
Avoid jumping to conclusions about what your pet is saying. There are two ways to dive deeper into what they’re trying to say:
a. Ask them more questions, such as “You want the rope toy?” Or “want outside?”
b. Wait for them to string together more words in order to get a better understanding of their meaning. If they string words together that don't make sense, you shouldn't jump the gun and assume you know what they mean! Be patient with them: pets often need encouragement when learning new things.
Sometimes, your pet might experiment with new combinations of words. For example, Bunny the talking dog said “cat upstairs” to describe a cat who was perched above on a ledge in her owners’ living room. This is a good sign! Plus, it was clear the button combination wasn’t a coincidence — it’s not a stretch to conclude that Bunny meant that the cat was up above perched on the ledge.
Another example of a successful inference was when a dog kept pressing their WATER button. Their owner refilled the bowl, but still they kept pressing WATER. Finally, their owner realized that her dog was asking to go to the pool!
Talking buttons give pets the ability to express what they want without having to rely on human interpretation of body language. This means that talking button training is as much about teaching humans how to speak dog/cat as it is about teaching our animals how to speak human! If you've been considering getting some new talking buttons for yourself and your furry friend, now would be an excellent time: our latest low prices won’t last long!
If you know someone who just started their pet with talking buttons, be sure to share this article with them! You might save them some headaches.