Alexis Devine has spent a lot of time working with her sheepadoodle, Bunny, on canine cognition and communication. From learning and being inspired by speech pathologists, Devine began to teach Bunny how to “talk” with buttons, and now Bunny knows more than 90 words.
Bunny (@whataboutbunny) has gone viral, with about 10 million followers across her TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms. We talked to Devine about where she drew inspiration for teaching her pup to communicate, and her advice for other dog owners looking to do the same.
What is Bunny’s comfort item for when your home is busy?
When our home is busy, Bunny turns to what was once a round and bouncy, bacon-scented pink ball. These days, it’s really just a piece of shredded rubber, but it still brings Bunny comfort, so we protect it at all costs. If for some reason this, as we call it, “pink squishy” is unavailable, she will turn to pretty much any cat toy.
How do you navigate finding the best products for Bunny?
Bunny can be pretty selective when it comes to both food and toys, so sometimes finding the “best products” for her comes down to a bit of experimentation wherein she can tell me yay or nay. Of course I try to select healthy and nutritious food products, and safe, non-toxic play items, but there are dozens of toys here that now belong to [our other dog] Otter because Buns has no interest in them.
What treat has improved your communication most with Bunny while learning to use the buttons?
I don’t use treats at all in conjunction with button training, but I do use treats for other types of training. Recently, I’ve been making dehydrated chicken liver, hearts, and giblets, and both pups go nuts for them. I love that they’re easy to make, highly nutritious, and one ingredient.
What pet product has strengthened your relationship with Bunny the most?
The pet product that has strengthened my relationship with Bunny the most is definitely the FluentPet system. At its core, it’s an empathy machine. It drives active listening, patience, and compassion. I don’t think we’d be where we are if it weren’t for the collaborative efforts of FluentPet and the huge “talking” animal community.