You Talkin’ To Me?

A few posts back I mentioned that I bought talking buttons for Lambeau. We’ve been working with them for a bit now. We started with just one, and with a good motivator for him- food. I recorded “Food” as the cue and used just one section of the mats that came with the buttons. I sat with his bowl of food and showed him what to do, and when the “Food” cue sounded, he got a handful of his meal. And we repeated that until his food was gone. At first, he was a bit unsure, then he started pawing at the mat and button, and pushing it around. It took him two or three days to get the idea that he had to actually tap the button and hear the cue to get his reward. After a few more days, he got the idea that when it was meal time, he had to ask for his food by tapping the button. Then, I started generalizing that idea to any sort of food: a treat, a doggie cookie, a piece of cheese, whatever food he wanted has to be asked for. He caught on pretty quick! Of course, food is big motivator in his world.

Now, I’ve added a second button. This one has the cue “Backyard”. I am hoping that eventually, he will be able to tell us when he wants to go outside. He used to love hanging out on the deck in MA, and I think when the warm weather returns, he will want to go out in the yard more or just lounge on the porch, where he can keep a good eye on the neighborhood. This is a little trickier. He knows to tap the buttons, but it’s getting him to figure out that they are different that’s sticky. I am sure he hears the different words, but right now, he just knows that making a sound gets a treat. I am keeping the two buttons in the same orientation on the mats and trying to make sure that I respond with the cued action, even if it isn’t the one he intended. He’s starting to get it right more in the last few days. Like everything else when training a new behavior, it takes patience, repetition, and time.

So, what do I think of the buttons themselves? They’re okay. They weren’t the most expensive set, but not the cheapest, either. The recording and playback aren’t top audio quality for sure. It takes a few tries to get a decent enough recording of the cues to be useful. But in their defense, the things are small, less than two inches across, so the speaker in them is pretty tiny. The non-slip mats are pretty slippery, but we do have either hardwood or laminate all through the house. I think they’d be better on carpet. All told, they are good enough for what I want to do. I’m (probably) not going to try to get him to know and use a large vocabulary. We’ll do a few useful things, but, really, I just wanted something new and different to teach him. He does catch on to new things pretty quickly, so I am always looking for something. It’s good for him to have to think and work out new ideas. Good for me, too, because I have to figure out the best way to teach him so that he doesn’t get frustrated or so confused he’ll never catch on. I’ve learned as much as he has, I think!

Coming in May 2022

“Crossed Wires and Other Very Short Stories”. Twelve Scifi and twelve fantasy short stories that can each be read in minutes.

I have written science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy stories. There are novels, novellas, and shorter pieces to fit everyone’s reading time. There are even some free stories, both here on the site and in other places. You can go here to find out more about the books I have published. They are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and most ebook retailers. Thank You!