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Teaching your dog to “speak” used to be a simple trick, but dog talking buttons can give your dog a surprisingly expansive vocabulary. With a little training, positive reinforcement, and perseverance, you can teach your dog to employ dozens of useful words.
“The best talking pet buttons set your pet up for success. Buttons that your pet can physically use, that work for the preferred space in your home and that come with an expert guide, will help you learn to teach them different words,” explains speech-language pathologist Christina Hunger, MA CCC-SLP and the New York Times bestselling author of How Stella Learned to Talk. (You can see Stella in action on Instagram @hunger4words.) “If you’re just getting started, I’d choose buttons that you can spend time experimenting with to determine what works best for you and your pet.”
We researched functionality, materials, and build quality to find the best dog talking buttons. Our favorite is the FluentPet Talking Dog Button Tester Kit, which not only has compact and durable buttons but is also expandable, with additional kits that let you build on what your dog has learned. But there are other kits we’d recommend as well.
Here are the best dog talking buttons.
Best Overall: FluentPet Dog Talking Button Tester Kit
Easy to record and press
Compact and durable
Variety of kits for a range of use
Uses space efficiently
Room for expansion
A little more expensive than others
FluentPet’s Tester Kit includes two talking buttons and foam “Hextiles” that hold the buttons securely and let you build color-coded sound boards of multiple words. The kit is designed to teach your pet simple word prompts like “outside” and “potty.”
You also can start off a little more ambitiously with the FluentPet Get Started Kit, which includes six buttons. The ability to upgrade is one of FluentPet’s most substantial advantages among dog talking buttons. The company offers a 12-button Basic Vocab Kit and a 32-button They Can Talk Kit—one for each word in their suggested introductory words list. FluentPet also sells additional buttons and Hextiles individually.
Every FluentPet kit comes with a set of 67 ideogram (picture word) stickers to mark your buttons. Even batteries are included. To get started, you record your voice saying a word, label it, and then insert the button into a hextile, creating a paw-pressable button that your dog will begin to associate with a specific action, given enough practice. You can watch these buttons in action on Instagram @whataboutbunny, where Bunny the talking labradoodle demonstrates her skills.
Best Starter Kit: Hunger for Words Talking Pet Starter Set
Easy to use
Includes a quick-start guide
Some customers report sound-quality issues
Not as durable as some other buttons
This dog talking button brand was created by Christina Hunger, who was consulted for this article. As a pioneer in applying human speech-language science to dog training, it’s no surprise that she was in a position to create the ideal starter kit for anyone who is interested in providing their dog with a vocabulary.
“As the founder of the Talking Pet Movement, I used my background in speech-language pathology, human communication devices, and my years of working with my own dog, Stella, to create tools and resources that help the average pet owner learn how to teach their own pet. Each product comes with a step-by-step teaching guide instructing you how to set your pet up for their best success.”
The Starter Set includes four plastic communication buttons and a guide for beginners. Each is powered by AAA batteries that are sold separately. The guide will help you learn how to recognize and build off of your dog’s current communication patterns to give them a voice and help you understand each other more clearly. You can purchase the Talking Pet Mat separately to help hold the buttons in place.
The Starter Set of four buttons is designed to get you rolling. When you’re ready for more words, check out the Talking Pet Next Words sets for names and locations, and the pre-recorded Talking Pets Essential Words set. You can also stay organized and motivated with the magnetic Goal Tracker set.
Best Customizable: Learning Resources Recordable Answer Buzzers
Batteries not included
While not marketed specifically for dogs, they work well for the purpose. They are very similar to the Hunger for Words Talking Pet Sets buttons, but they do not come with foam pads or a guide to get you started, so you’ll need to devise your own way to secure them. During home testing, I used foam floor tiles meant for toddlers and Velcro from the fabric store. Using a combination of online training videos and Hunger’s book, I’ve been able to reliably teach our dog Kuma several words in just a couple of weeks.
They’re affordable and easy to record up to seven seconds of sound using a little red button on the side, although the red button is not protected, so our dog has bumped it on occasion, erasing the recorded word.
Each button uses two AAA batteries that are not included. They are large, which can be good for big dogs, but that might make them trickier for smaller breeds. They also take up more space on the floor than some of the kits with smaller buttons.
Best Budget: Boskey Talking Pet Starter Set
Some dogs might have trouble pushing the buttons
This pack of six buttons comes with picture and word stickers and all the AAA batteries you need to get started. A switch on the bottom is toggled to "REC" to record, and then it can be switched into off or play modes. Most other buttons don’t have an off switch. Each button is made of durable ABS plastic and can record up to 10 seconds of sound. Rubber feet on the bottom help prevent slipping.
Best Potty Button: Mighty Paw Smart Bell 2.0
90-day money-back guarantee
Easy to install
No “off” button
To give your dog the opportunity to tell you when they need to go out, you can install a button or bell near the door and train your dog to touch it. The Mighty Paw Smart Bell 2.0 mounts to the wall or door with a 3M adhesive strip, so no tools are required for installation, and the surface won’t be damaged during installation.
Unlike the other buttons on this list, these don’t require batteries. Instead, they work wirelessly. One programmable receiver unit is plugged into an outlet, and the activator button works anywhere within 1,000 feet. You can program the receiver by adjusting the bell volume and ring tone by choosing any of four different volumes and 38 different tones. They are water-resistant, so they are appropriate for outdoor use.
The button responds to a light touch, so it should work for small dogs and even cats. Mighty Paw is family-owned and -operated in Rochester, New York. It's also available with two activators so your dog can use multiple doors.
Best Bell: VIMOV Pet Training Bells
Available in five cute colors
Good value for the money
Doesn’t work well on carpet
While it won’t give your dog a multiple-word vocabulary, a good bell will enable them to communicate at least one of their needs to you. The Vimov Training Bells are old-school and reliable, and they don’t require batteries, plugs, or wires.
Sold in a pack of two, these bells are easy to use, and they perform reliably. The metal bell has a solid plastic base. They have a typical metal bell sound that’s loud enough to be heard from a reasonable distance. The silicone bottom cover protects floors, while holding the button in place.
Our favorite dog talking buttons are Fluent Pet Kits, because they are compact, durable, and easy to record and press, and they come in a variety of kits for different skill levels. The Mighty Paw Smart Bell 2.0 Potty Training Dog Doorbell is also a great option specifically for potty training. It requires no batteries and responds to a light touch, so your dog will learn quickly with fewer accidents.
What to Look for in Dog Talking Buttons
When choosing your dog talking button, look for those that are sturdy and that have a sound that’s loud and clear enough for you and your dog to understand. Most are made of washable plastic with simple electronics. Very few are water-resistant, so most can only be used indoors.
“I like systems that give you flexibility to figure out what type of setup works best for you and your pet,” Hunger told The Spruce Pets. “Some pets do well with having all of their buttons together on one board, while other families have more success with keeping their buttons in different locations throughout their home.”
Unless you are into DIY, choose buttons that come with—or have the option to purchase separately—some method to hold the buttons in place, such as foam mats with button cutouts.
While simple button kits are perfect for anyone who is familiar with dog talking button training, those with written guides are invaluable for teaching your dog their first few words, like “play” and “outside.”
You can read the full story of how the Talking Pet movement began, in How Stella Learned to Talk. “My book also includes dozens of tips and teaching strategies at the end of each chapter that you can try at home,” adds Hunger.
How do you teach a dog to talk with buttons?
“Teaching a dog to talk with buttons is a lot simpler than it sounds,” explains Hunger. “Your dog can learn how to say words when you:
- Choose vocabulary you say often that is motivating to your dog,
- Keep your buttons in the same consistent locations,
- Use your dog’s buttons when you talk to them, and
- Respond appropriately.”
Hunger adds, “Do not give treats as a reward when your dog says a word. This interferes with learning the actual meaning. Instead, respond to what they say. For example, if your dog says, ‘play,’ go get a toy and start playing! Also, avoid training your dog to push a button on your command. This is indicative of training a trick rather than teaching purposeful communication.”
Can dogs actually talk with buttons?
“Yes!” says Hunger. “Dogs are demonstrating characteristics of language when they are taught correctly. Some of these characteristics include:
- Spontaneously using words in appropriate contexts without any prompting,
- Generalizing the meanings of words to use with different people, in different environments and in different situations,
- Using words for communication functions other than requesting (such as commenting, labeling, protesting, asking and answering questions), and
- Combining multiple words together to create novel, unique phrases.”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
The Spruce Pets exhaustively researches and recommends a broad range of products. We also tap a network of experts and testers to help you make smarter purchases.
This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde, who evaluated the cost, functionality, materials, and quality of each dog talking button, as well as customer and expert reviews and each company’s business ethics. Lorraine is currently teaching her four-year-old pit bull mix, Kuma, to use dog talking buttons.