Is AI Making it Easier to Have a Conversation with Your Pet?

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson

We ask the question: Is there really an app in the works that will help us talk to animals?

Photo Credit: Zivica Kerkez /

So, you think you have a pretty good relationship with your dog. He lets you know when he wants out, is hungry, is hankering for a treat or is ready to snuggle in beside you for a night of streaming your new favorite series. But what if, rather than sending you physical cues such as a nudge or a tail wag, the two of you could actually have a conversation?

Well, there are several services out there – including Google Translate – that are trying to make that happen. From basic apps with soundboards that attempt to convert your pet’s various barks into human language to those that allow you to respond back in a manner that they claim your little buddy understands. And we’re not talking about you reverting to the usual trigger words such as “treat” or “walk” that will earn a raised head or wagging tail but an actual, interactive chat with your pet.

Seriously! Pioneering research is being conducted that will help decode and mimic animal sounds with the goal being that we can better enjoy a two-way conversation with them. This groundbreaking capability will ultimately include not only dogs and cats but birds, reptiles and even whales and other forms of sea life.

The big however, as shared by two neurologists out of Israel, is what they’ve labelled the Doctor Dolittle challenge. It essentially states that to have a genuinely meaningful interaction with your pet, certain criterion needs to be met. Otherwise, it’s just a bit of fun.

These include that the “conversation” being held must incorporate your pet’s existing unique communicative style. In other words, he can’t be simply responding to the commands you have already taught him. You need to be building on his distinctive, already established, sounds, actions, and vocalizations.

Further, the signals he’s sending out in a bid to “communicate” need to be observed in a variety of situations – stressful, happy, etc. – to fully understand the intent of his message to you. So, is that yipping always just a playful way for him to engage or is he trying to convey something a little more urgent? Context matters.

Finally, it has to be measurable. Is he communicating with you in the same manner he would be connecting with another dog or animal?

So, lots to consider before we upload an app and think we’re ready to have a heart-to-heart talk with Rover about last night’s oopsie on the kitchen floor.

Per Yossi Yovel and Oded Rechavi from the Tel Aviv University research team, "Even if we will never be able to talk to animals in a human way, understanding how complex animal communication is and attempting to tap into it and mimic it is a fascinating scientific endeavor."

Okay, so not really what we were hoping to hear... but no time to dwell because my dog is giving me the stink-eye and that tells me it’s time for dinner. No app required.

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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