Talking Buttons Tips and Tricks

Dog with Talking Buttons
  • Set up your PawkieTalkie buttons and mats in a location that is easy for both you and your pet to access. 
  • Choose a location where communication is most likely to occur, such as in your living area or kitchen.
  • Ensure that you will be able to hear when your pet uses the buttons.
  • Identify a core vocabulary
    • Core Vocabulary refers to high frequency words that make up about 80% of what we say. Many common verbs are included in core vocabulary.
    • Choose words that relate to things your pet already tries to communicate to you (e.g., whining for food, wagging their tail when they are excited to go for a walk). Observe your pet and take note of what words or actions you communicate to your pet that causes them to react.
    • Choose relevant and frequently occurring words that you use with your pet throughout the day. Examples include: water, walk, outside, ball, etc.
    • Teach more than one word to start. 2-3 buttons allows for differentiation and speeds up learning. 
  • Practice makes progress
    • Model for your pet by pushing the buttons yourself as you engage in activities together.
    • Repetition is key! Repeat the word on the button as you or your pet pushes the button to enhance recognition and learning. 
    • Expand on the message from the button. For example, if the button says ‘walk,’ expand on this by saying, ‘Time for a walk’ or ‘Let’s go for a walk!’ 
    • Pair supports such as gestures (e.g., pointing) to help you pet, but avoid telling your pet what to say and when. We want shared communication, not command and response. ;-)
  • Patience and presence
    • Be willing to wait. Learning takes time and your pet may need several days or weeks of exposure before they use the buttons independently.
    • Offer long pauses. Give your pet time to think. Count to five (or even ten) slowly to see if they respond.
    • Be responsive and present for your pet. Immediately reward their communication attempts. Offer praise and show your excitement!
  • Managing challenges
    • Continue to meet your pet’s basic needs.
    • Don’t withhold food or other needs from your pet while waiting for them to use a button.
    • Avoid relying too heavily on treats and food rewards. Try to incorporate incentives like play time and walks.
    • Avoid removing buttons. If you find your pet is using certain buttons too much (e.g., requesting treats), it is okay to add buttons such as ‘no,’ 'later,' or ‘all done’ to communicate limits.

We hope you find these tips and tricks helpful! Please reach out if you feel you and your pet need more support or if you have some amazing strategies to add! We want all pet's and pet families to have success and better understand each other.