Words & Phrases: Toys - How to teach your dog to talk with buttons – Woof Meow Hello

Words & Phrases: Toys - How to teach your dog to talk with buttons

Your dog may already know some of the names of their different toys, especially their favorite toys. Even if not, it is quite easy to teach them to associate words with objects that bring them joy.

A button for each of their toys empowers your dog to ask for the kind of play they want to have. It is highly rewarding, and therefore great for reinforcement. And unlike food, where they'll always ask for more despite being full, your dog will simply enjoy their play time then move on to the next activity.

When they're done playing, be sure to press the "all done" button—they might begin following your example.

Toys: What do these words this mean for my dog?

Fortunately, this word (words, rather—hopefully your dog has more than one toy!) is extremely straightforward. The name of a toy simply refers to a particular toy.

Learning that different toys have different names can also ease your dog into learning that people and other dogs have names too.

One thing to keep in mind is that your dog may confuse the name of a toy to mean "play." Repetition, patience, and love will lead to them learning the difference in no time.

Toys: How can my dog learn to refer to toys by name?

  • To start, hold a toy in your hand, but don't give it to them just yet. Instead, press the corresponding button repeatedly, maybe even pointing at the toy. Then, right before you give them the toy, press the "play" button.
  • At first, never press a toy button while your dog is playing with a toy—only before or after. This way, they won't be as likely to confuse it for "play."
  • As your dog begins to associate their toys with their corresponding buttons, begin pressing the "play" button before the toy button. For example, "play ball." 
  • When your dog presses the "play" button, ask them what they want to play with. They might understand what you mean right away and press the button for the toy they want, but chances are you'll need to model for them. You might say something like "Play ball? Play rope?"
  • Take the opportunity to practice the word "help." If a toy is not accessible to your dog, it is a good time to model this word.

Once your dog has mastered the concept of different words for different toys, they will be ready to learn the concept of a question. You ask them which toy they want to play with, and they tell you which one. This is good setup for them to learn "what," a more advanced word.

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