The toy that could teach pets to talk

Fluent: The device allows dogs to learn up to 32 different words and phrases. © Getty

Is talking to our pets a good idea? One company has come up with a device that lets dogs learn words. By pressing buttons, the pets can “talk” to their owners about what they want to do.

What’s happening

Lola the beagle looks up at her owner with her head cocked to one side. Normally, a human would not be able to understand what a dog is trying to say. But this time it is different. Lola’s owner knows exactly what she wants.

How? Because Lola has pressed a button on a toy that says, “Play”.

Find out more

FluentPet is a new toy made for dogs that helps them communicate with their owners. It is made up of a collection of hexagonal boards. Each board has six buttons that read out certain words when pressed.

We already know that dogs can recognise words. They learn their names and words like “walk”. We can train them to “sit”, “lie down” and “fetch”.

This device allows the dogs to be in charge. They can learn buttons and ask for things. Lola has over 20 buttons on her board.

FluentPet allows owners to upload any word. It could help dogs learn the names of people in the household, as well as greetings and the names of rooms and places.

Some fans hope that the technology could help us talk to all of our household pets. Is it a good idea?

Some say…

Yes! It would be fascinating. We could ask them when they are hungry or want a walk. Dogs could answer questions about what it is like to have a powerful sense of smell. We could chat about our worries with cats. We could find out what they get up to when they slink off at night. It would make having a pet even better.

Others think…

Maybe not. The animals might tell us things we do not want to hear. Our cats might say they prefer our neighbours. We might find out that the dog food we choose is not that tasty. Rabbits could tell us they do not like being stroked. Hamsters could reveal that running in a wheel is really boring. It could be the end of pets forever.

You Decide

  1. If you could keep any animal as a pet, what would it be?

Activities

  1. Write a play about a dog and cat who learn to talk to their owner and act it out in class.

Some People Say...

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.”

Sigmund Freud, Austrian neurologist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Beagle
A breed of dog. Beagles are small dogs with short legs, drooping ears, and smooth fur that is usually black, tan and white.
Cocked
To cock your head is to turn or tip it upward or to one side.
FluentPet
Fluent is a word used to describe somebody who speaks very smoothly and clearly. It also describes someone who has learnt a foreign language very well. A fluent pet is one that can learn human language.
Communicate
To exchange thoughts, ideas or information. Dogs communicate using body language – movements and gestures. Humans tend to use spoken language more.
Hexagonal
Something that is the shape of a hexagon – a six-sided shape.
Upload
To send information from one computer to another computer or device. FluentPet allows owners to record words and connect them to buttons on the boards.
Fascinating
Something extremely interesting or enchanting – something that fascinates us.

Subjects

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