Skip to main content

‘Talking’ dog may hold the answer to whether dogs miss us when we’re gone

If you’re like the majority of pet parents, you’ve probably said “I wish you could talk” to your dog at least once in their lives. Whether trying to solve a behavioral issue, a mystery illness, or just wondering what the heck is running through that furry head of theirs, there’s no doubt that using words would make a world of difference for you both.

If dogs could talk to humans, we could learn a lot more than whether Fido needed to go potty. Technology like this would open doors to canine psychology that scientists could only hypothesize before. We could answer all kinds of questions: Do dogs miss humans when we’re gone? Do our pets truly love us?

Though talking dogs seems like a far-off possibility, it’s more real than you might think — just ask Bunny the Sheepadoodle and Alexis Devine, her human mom.

Bunny the talking dog

Since 2019, notes The Seattle Times, Bunny the poodle mix has been training to interact with over 50 buttons on a soundboard to communicate with her parents and friends. In order to “speak,” she simply presses a talking button with her paw. Each button corresponds to a word or phrase that her mom prerecorded, allowing everyone — human or canine — to understand the meaning of each spot on the soundboard.

Since starting her journey toward communication, Bunny and her family have gathered over 7.1 million followers on their TikTok account (at the time of this writing). It’s easy to see why so many people want to keep up with her endeavors; watching her learn and interact with her family is both mind-blowing and heart-warming.


This interaction seems incredible in so many ways: questioning/ referencing the past/ empathy. #fyp #doggyanthem #empathy #talkingdog

♬ original sound – I am Bunny

They Can Talk project

According to Salon, Bunny is just one of over 2,600 dogs and 300 cats enrolled in a program called They Can Talk. This program’s goal is to understand the extent to which humans and animals can communicate using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, like Bunny’s buttons.

Skeptics believe that Bunny’s communication skills are simply a result of dedicated training and not spontaneous thought. While no scientific conclusions can be drawn as of yet, the sweet pup’s videos certainly seem like she organically communicates with her mom and family.

How the buttons work

As you will see in her videos, Bunny uses a series of talking buttons to communicate with her owner. Before showing them to her dog, Devine records one word in her own voice — the word that will be played back when Bunny presses the button. This allows Devine to control what and how many words her dog will learn, as well as add an air of familiarity for Bunny.

Most dogs in the They Can Talk project start by learning how to use a single button — “outside.” Devine explains in a video how she and Bunny tackled this process: with consistency and repetition. When she would take Bunny outside, Devine would press the “outside” button, say the word “outside” with her voice, and then let Bunny outside. It took about three weeks before Bunny used the button on her own. You can see it at around 2:30 in the video.

What can we learn from ‘talking’ dogs?

As Bunny’s button skills have advanced, she has been able to communicate more and more complex ideas to her mom. Though science hasn’t confirmed whether she is forming thoughts in the same way humans do, she seems to ask questions that are just as intelligent as a person’s. In fact, she’s even told her mom about her dreams.

Bunny’s thoughts and questions have sparked discussion among canine cognition experts and pet lovers alike, as it’s becoming evident that there is a lot to learn.


Then vs. Now?#FreeFreeDance #thenvsnow #bunnythedog #fypシ

♬ original sound – I am Bunny

Do dogs miss humans when we’re gone?

Recently, Bunny’s dad returned to work after spending months at home during the coronavirus pandemic. As this was such a big adjustment, it’s not surprising that Bunny took notice. What is surprising, though, is how she expressed her concern.

“The first week that he was back at school in the classroom, Bunny was very much asking about Johnny,” Devine told Salon. “[She was] pressing ‘Where dad?’ and ‘Where dad bye?’ for a lot of the day, for several days in a row.”

Though it’s clear that she noticed her dad’s absence, it’s unclear whether she felt negative about it. Some may suggest that her repetitive asking could indicate anxiety, but neither her mom nor canine experts can confirm that. One thing is for sure though — dogs are aware when a member of their pack is missing.

Even though there’s still a lot to learn about the way dogs relate to and communicate with people, there’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying the process. Watching Bunny’s videos is so fascinating and sweet that we don’t blame you if you want to try the button technique with your own pet! If you’re interested, They Can Talk provides tons of text and video resources for getting started, including some celebrity appearances from Bunny herself!

Editors' Recommendations

Gabrielle LaFrank
Gabrielle LaFrank has written for sites such as Psych2Go, Elite Daily, and, currently, PawTracks. When she's not writing, you…
How many hours a day do dogs sleep? It depends on their age and breed
Ever wondered how much your dog should sleep? Here's what to know
Golden retriever sleeping in bed with owner

There are a few things dogs all have in common, but most importantly, they love to snooze. Every dog's sleep schedule is different, though. Some seem to be asleep all the time, while others are ready to go at the crack of dawn for a morning walk. Because of all these differences, it can be tricky to determine how much sleep is the right amount for your beastie, or if your dog might be lying around too much. And should you be concerned that he's napping more because he's sick or bored?

There are lots of questions -- we know -- so we're here to help you solve them all. You'll learn the answer to, "How many hours a day dogs sleep?" and more. Don't stress -- we'll help you figure it out!

Read more
Velcro dogs: The pets most likely to become mini stalkers (and what to do about it)
Some pups can't get enough of their humans and follow them everywhere earning them the title velcro dogs
Chihuahua cocks his head while lying on the carpet

One of the best things about pets is they love us unconditionally: They jump for happiness when we get home, dutifully stand by our side no matter what, and beg for our attention even when we're in our PJs with unkempt hair. Velcro dogs take this to the next level. These pups stick to their humans like glue, or well, velcro. They can't get enough of their people and follow them around, even into the bathroom.
While this behavior can be common in many pets when they're young, right after being adopted, or immediately following a long separation, velcro dog breeds never seem to grow out of the tendency. Just about any beastie can wind up fitting into this category, but some types of dogs are more prone to it than others.

What makes a pup a velcro dog?
The truth is, there's no surefire way to tell if one animal will wind up being clingier than the next. However, there are some clues you can look to and make an educated guess. Essentially, all puppies go through this phase at one time or another, but that doesn't necessarily indicate they'll turn into a velcro pooch as an adult. Additionally, many, or even most, dogs will also follow you more when they first meet you or after a big life event, like a move. However, a true clinger won't ever let go, staying right underfoot all day for their whole life.

Read more
How can you tell how old a dog is? Easy ways to figure it out
Here's how professionals can tell how old a dog is
An elderly golden retriever stands outside in the sunshine

If you have a dog, then it's almost certain you've heard the cliche that one dog year equals seven human years. As it turns out, that's not actually how dogs age. Our pups mature faster than we do during the first few years of their lives. But what does that mean for aging and maturity? It may surprise you to learn that your canine companion is actually closer to a 15-year-old than a 7-year-old by the time he celebrates his first birthday.

Adopting a puppy makes calculating your dog's age a whole lot easier, but adopting an adult dog may require a bit more detective work on your part. Unfortunately, most shelter dogs have incomplete medical histories, and they may not have records of how old the dogs are. This means that you'll have to figure it out for yourself, but that might be easier said than done. That's why we've put together this helpful guide on how to tell how old a dog is, full of tips from professionals to help you understand your dog's age.

Read more