Joining Words

In Barney, Blog by Julie

Barney continues to amaze us with his language development and this week he has started to combine words in to simple phrases and sentences. This phase of language development has expanded really quickly and the more we are showing interest the more he is trying to communicate with us.

Yesterday, for the second walk of the day, I took Barney and Luna to the beach to meet up with Luna’s doggy mum and sister and they all had a wonderful time. Barney ran up and down the beach, splashed about in the sea and dug lots of holes. When he got home he was exhausted and slept well into the evening (waking up just long enough to eat his dinner). At about 8.30pm he woke up and was really keen to communicate with us. He used his usual single words on numerous occasions: ‘carrot’, ‘dinner’, ‘play’. He was particularly persistent with ‘dinner’ and kept checking his bowl so we gave him a small amount of food in case he was still hungry after his exciting afternoon. After this he stopped saying ‘dinner’ so he clearly was letting us know he had not had enough to eat earlier in the evening.

Barney continued to talk to us, using a wider range of buttons. Over the last few weeks we have added a number of additional buttons and have been modelling them to him every day since. Yesterday, he combined a range of words into simple phrases. He has done this once or twice previously, but this time we had a much wider range of phrases. Barney used ‘come’ and then made eye contact with my husband. As he started to move towards the floor to join Barney, Barney pressed ‘play’. They played together for several minutes with a range of toys and then Barney pressed ‘play happy’ and looked towards us as he shared his thoughts.  

When Luna went over to her water bowl to get a drink, Barney pressed ‘cuddle Luna’ and when I responded verbally he looked at Luna then pressed ‘love’. He often uses ‘Luna’ to attract her attention and has used ‘cuddle’ when looking at my husband or I but this is the first time he has combined these words together. We regularly model the word ‘love’ and we have no doubt that he knows the word. It’s so lovely to see/hear him express this.

Over the course of the evening, he started to press ‘walk’ quite consistently. After a busy afternoon, and an evening of playing with us and his toys, we didn’t think he would actually want a 3rd walk so we responded to him with ‘walk all done’ or ‘walk later’ as we usually do when he asks for a walk and we can’t take him. Still really keen to communicate with us, he started to press a range of word combinations – looking at us each time to ensure we were listening. When we didn’t respond to ‘walk’ as he wanted, he went on to say ‘come walk’, ‘come park’ and ‘beach happy’ over the next few minutes. After these word combinations, we started to think maybe he definitely did want a walk. The next time he pressed ‘walk’ my husband responded with ‘walk?’ and Barney jumped up with excitement that his message was being understood and listened to. When they got back from their short walk, Barney was relaxed and he settled down completely, showing us that he really did want a walk. I am fascinated that when ‘walk’ didn’t work, he used a range of other word combinations to try and tell us what he wanted.

This morning Barney requested a ‘carrot’ and I halved one between him and Luna. After he finished it he walked over to the communication board and pressed ‘carrot’… just as I was about to respond to say ‘all done’, he went on to press ‘Barney love’. He ate a carrot and came back to his board to express ‘carrot Barney love’. He’s really beginning to use the device to express thoughts and ideas as well as making requests, just like we do. We use communication to share things that matter to us, and that’s exactly what Barney is demonstrating. We are so proud of how well Barney is communicating, and how much he really seems to value us listening to him. We are excited to see where this journey goes next.

Check back soon for some top tips and ideas for introducing buttons/words with your dog.  If you use AAC with your dog/puppy I would love to hear from you!


To purchase the book which inspired me to teach Barney to talk see here:

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