Dog Uses Sound Buttons to Tell Owner She Is Sick Before She Knew It

Nevena Nacic
by Nevena Nacic

We have all seen fun videos of dogs using talking buttons to communicate with their owners. Pawrents who decide to train their dogs to use sound buttons do it to open new avenues of communication and to understand their pups’ needs better. Instead of expressing his needs, a golden retriever named Cache, used sound buttons to tell his owner that she was sick hours before she experienced any symptoms.

A video posted by the owner Christina shows an 18-month-old Cache pressing the buttons “sick”, “friend”, and “mom.” Cache’s owner explained that this was a very interesting exchange. “Cache has been primarily referring to me as a “friend” lately, so when I asked if he was sick and he said “friend” I was pretty sure he meant me, but I didn’t feel sick (just a bit fatigued), so I was skeptical until he explicitly followed my “who?” question with a “mom”,” said Christina in an Instagram post

At first, Christina was suspicious since she felt fine. But five hours later, when she started to cough and feel nauseous, it hit her that Cache was right - she was indeed sick. 

Christina Lee, a software engineer from Northern California, got Cache sound buttons after reading “How Stella Learned to Talk” by Christina Hunger. The book is based on a true story and is a simple guide to teaching your dog to talk using paw-sizes buttons associated with different words. 

Cache began to train how to talk using AIC (Augmentative Interspecies Communication) when he was six months old. He started to press buttons with pre-recorded words and was trained to communicate using 108 buttons.

The first words he learned were “outside” and “play”. “It was all demonstration-based. I wouldn’t give him treats or anything. If I went outside, I would press outside. It took him a while to start using the buttons, but once he did, we were off to the races,” Christina explained.

Initially, when Christina introduced the word “sick”, Cache had a hard time conceptualizing it and often associated it with every negative emotion. Christina said, “I introduced the sick button a year ago when I had the flu and since then he pressed the button when I’ve been crying as well. It’s very interesting.”

According to Katelyn Schutz, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, dogs have several ways to tell whether a person is ill or not. One of those ways is through their remarkable sense of smell. Believe it or not, a dog’s sense of smell is about 100,000 times stronger than ours. 

When a person is sick, their body chemistry changes. A dog’s sensitive nose can sense these changes, letting the dog know their human is sick.

“Guess my little one is an early cold detecting system now. Not terribly surprising given how good their sense of smell is, but wild nonetheless that he can tell me about it,” said Christina. 

Nevena Nacic
Nevena Nacic

Nevena is a freelance writer and a proud mom of Teo, a 17-year-old poodle, and Bob, a rescued grey tabby cat. Since childhood, she had a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home (luckily, her parents didn't know how to say NO). When she's not writing for her fellow pet parents, Nevena can be found watching Teo sleep. To her defense, that's not as creepy as it sounds!

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