Wrigley’s Communication Journey

Written by: Stephanie Stone
Edited by: Tandy Tiramai

 Australian shepherd training with speak or speech buttons

Growing up Jaclyn Jenkins always knew she wanted to have a career with animals.

Now as a full-time dolphin trainer in Miami, Florida, she has also taken on a new project with her Australian Shepherd, Wrigley.

 “I turned my passion and experience in training marine mammals to training Wrigley,” she said.

In January, Wrigley began his communication journey with Jenkin’s “Speech Button Project”. This involved purchasing recordable answer buttons, and adding simple commands like “outside”. 

“My overall goal with these buttons is to truly see what Wrigley wants/needs/feels and better communicate with him,” she said.

Although it has only been three months, Jenkins said Wrigley is so motivated to press the buttons. 

“We have four right now, and he has progressed so much in such a short time,” she said.

 Now, she has added three more command buttons for Wrigley to learn and practice with. This includes  “treat,” “play”, and “I love you”.

“You can really see him think and choose which button he wants (out of the four) and he is putting intent into his thoughts,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins first got inspired to begin this project after following Stella and dog mom, Christina Hunger (@hunger4words), on Instagram.

 “Her owner is a speech pathologist and created this movement of dogs, essentially, speaking their thoughts,” she said. “I always thought it was so amazing and during the 2020 year decided I finally had some time to dedicate to training this behavior”.

To showcase Wrigley’s results and progressions thus far, Jenkins took to Wrigley’s Instagram community (@wrigleyaussie). Wrigley’s Instagram reels show weekly and monthly updates. 

“I wanted to look back and see how far he’s come in his progression and help out anyone else who has thought about training this behavior,” she said.

With this project, Jenkins said she feels really accomplished as a trainer and dog mom.

“It makes me happy when Wrigley is choosing to go over to the buttons on his own and tell me what he wants in the moment,” she said. 

Jenkins said she is looking forward to continuing to train with Wrigley and to have more experiences with him helping him learn.

“My favorite experience so far is seeing that “lightbulb” turn on, in Wrigley’s brain, when he finally understood the consequence when pressing a button,” she said. “It wasn’t until I introduced the second “treat” button that he really understood what pressing his first “outside” button... and so forth.

Stay updated through Wrigley’s Communication Journey and learn more about the Project by following @wrigleyaussie on Instagram.