Dog Interface Device




Introduction: Dog Interface Device

About: I create custom artwork in miniature and full-size, paint, draw, and love all things crafty.

This device allows the dog to let us know when he is out of water, by alerting us with a sound and light. If we are out of the room and don't hear the tune, the light stays on until it is reset so we can see it as we walk by the kitchen/utility room and know Cody (our dog) has pushed the "button". Cody already has a push button to let us know when to let him outside, but he uses that one with his paw. I wanted him to be able to push this with his nose (he already knows the command for that, so I figured it would be as easy to teach him how to use this device as it was to teach him how to use the other one, which he learned in just a couple of days).


In true Instructables fashion, this device uses hacked and scrounged materials and a few tools. Please read through the instructions and you'll have a better idea of what types of materials you can use that you have on hand. Your device may vary in size and construction depending on the size of your pet and your personal preferences.
The two primary components are a poster sound recording device and one LED tea light with push button activation.

You will also need;

  • tracing paper
  • paper & pencil
  • "hobby wood" scraps. I'm using left over pieces of Midwest products 1/8" and 1/16" basswood sheets and birch plywood sheets and 1/8" & 1/4" basswood strips of the type usually found in craft stores, and 1/16" hardboard.
  • one or two hinges that swing freely
  • cardboard - "regular" 1/8" corrugated cardboard box type, and thin cardboard or card stock (a cereal box or shirt/gift box will be fine)
  • clear plastic - 2 pieces approximately 3" x 5". You can upcycle this from plastic food containers, it doesn't need to be sturdy.
  • aluminum foil
  • acrylic paint in whatever colors you choose
  • sandpaper & files
  • ruler
  • square rule
  • soldering iron, solder, wire suitable for electronic components, wire nippers, shrink tubing
  • masking tape and double-stick tape
  • wood glue and white glue
  • hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • blocks with straight sides - I used legos, but you could also use a small box or other blocks.
  • jeweler's saw (fret saw or scroll saw)

Step 1: Prepare Components

Our goal in this step is to sandwich the components between two pieces of wood in such a way that we line up both the sound recording activation button and the tea light on/off button. We want to keep the components safe, but still be able to remove the top and bottom pieces of wood in the future should we need to replace batteries or want to create a different recording.

- Remove plastic flame from tea light (most just snap out). Begin sawing along the seam where the top and bottom pieces of plastic on the base are joined together. Saw around entire base, just enough to remove top section of plastic. Be careful not to saw through wires or battery compartment. Set aside

- Carefully peel paper back from the poster sound device, revealing the components. This step will reveal the battery compartment for later use, and will also allow a brace to be added behind the push button.

- Record the sound you want to use as an alert. I chose Eddie Money's "Gimme Some Water" (what else?) and edited the recording to only last 30 seconds and only include the parts about water - no violence in my version :)

- Gently lift the record button from the foam base. Remove foam backing from the component and ever so gently tuck it back into place. Cut a piece of thin cardboard to fit over the record button and microphone and attach with double-stick tape. We want to make sure that we don't accidentally erase our recording, but will still be able to change it in the future if, say, we get sick of having the same song stuck in our heads for weeks.

- Hold tea candle base push button in line with the play button that sticks out in front of the sound recorder and draw the outline of the candle onto the foam piece. Cut section out and test fit candle base.

- Trace outline of sound device base on both sides, transfer patterns to wood pieces, and cut out (mine are 1/16" basswood).

- Test fit again, then take the covers off the sound device and remove additional foam to allow bracing pieces to be added to the push button components. Using wood glue, attach a small piece of 1/8" strip wood behind the button and allow it to dry. When dry, glue button in place using hot glue like there's no tomorrow - just make sure you don't cover the working parts of the button. Test it out and make sure it still works, and doesn't "give" when pushed.

- Replace wires on tea light with longer wires. We need the wires coming up from the other side of the sandwich, so glue a brace piece of wood behind the tea light as well, allow to dry, and hot glue in place.

Step 2: Build Activation Box

- scrounge up one or two hinges - the important thing about these is that they swing very freely. (If you only come up with one, place it in the center of the activation box and attach a bar of wood or scrap metal to it so that it hits both push buttons at the same time)

- measure the depth of the hinge. Using this as a base measurement, construct a mock up box from cardboard (start with the sides as high as the depth of your hinge minus half the width of your component sandwich, and as wide as the sides of your component cover "sandwich top") Adjust as necessary to get the hinges in a position where they activate buttons when pushed.

- Measure in 1/4" from the sides of the top cover (the one with the tea light attached) and mark a line along the width - this is the area that will be left clear for the sandwich to slide into the base of our finished device.

- Using the components of your mock up box as a pattern, cut side pieces from wood and glue to cover, leaving marked area clear. Glue strip wood inside as reinforcement, if desired. I've used 1/8" basswood, and 1/4" basswood strips for mine.

- Again using the top component of your mock up box as a pattern, cut the top piece of the box from wood. Attach hinges to this piece, and add another piece about the same size to the opposite side of the hinges. In this case, I used 1/16" birch plywood. Make sure that the hinge still swings like it's supposed to, then glue the hinged top section to the sides. Because I used thin wood, I placed the hinge on top of the wood rather than as it was designed (to have both sides of the hinge hidden) so that there would be less stress on the wood and the hanging hinge would still move freely.

- Drill or cut a hole centered in the top of the box to allow LED to come through.

- Cut a second piece of wood and glue to front section as shown, to cover the screw backs and rough area on the hanging piece, give the dog a larger target area to aim for, and to give the "paddle" more weight & leverage. Sand this piece very smooth, then sand some more - don't want any splinters in puppy noses!

Step 3: Make the Lighting Box

- Decide on the height of your top section (what I am referring to as the lighting box) and cut a piece of wood to that height and as wide as the top of the activation box. Mine is 2 1/2" x 4 1/2", and for the next part I'm just going to tell you what I did rather than give you diagrams or numbers for the angles, because I didn't use them. If you don't want to try this method, you can make the front of your box flat, or design the side pieces first then measure and cut the front to the desired angles.

- I wanted the front section to slant backwards so that Cody would be less likely to push that part than the trigger paddle I want him to push. I cut a piece of 1/8" basswood sheet to the width of my base (4 1/2") and 1/2" taller than my back piece. I could have drawn the angle on a piece of paper, but I wasn't sure what would look best on the actual project, so I just held it at an angle and made a pencil mark at the bottom parallel to the base (why measure angles if you don't have to?) Next step was to mark the areas that needed to be removed so this piece would fit over the hinges. Once I had those marks made, I sanded one edge of the wood to my angle mark, then cut and filed the sections for the hinges (matching the angle).

- After the bottom of the front piece was at the angle I wanted it to be, I taped lego blocks to the back piece to hold it upright and at a right angle to the box top, then taped that to the box. I then taped my square to the back piece, held my angled section in place, marked where the square lined up with the piece, and made a note of the distance on the square (for the depth/width of the box cover).

- Using the measurement from the square, and the width of the box (2" X 4 1/2") - I adjusted the piece slightly to make it an even number) I cut a piece of wood for the top

- (and now back to you :) - Once you have your measurements, transfer those numbers to a piece of paper and create the pattern for the side pieces - start with a right angle, mark the vertical edge the height of your back piece and the horizontal edge the distance of the top of your activation box minus the width of the front and back pieces of wood. Now place your square rule with one edge against the vertical measure and the other edge parallel to the bottom, mark the distance of the top piece, minus the thickness of the front back pieces of wood. Remove the square and draw a line completing the pattern and drawing the angle of the front piece.

- Cut side pieces from wood and tape everything in place for a "dry fit".

- Glue back and sides to top of activation box

- Transfer bone pattern to front piece. Use the jeweler's saw to cut the design out, creating a window.

Step 4: Make the Lighting Box - Reflector

Since the front of our lighting box is at an angle, we're creating a reflector that will direct the light towards the front of the box.

- Start with the pattern you made for the sides of the box and, using your square rule, draw a line from the center of the front (angled line) towards the back.

- From the point where that line meets the back, draw lines to each of the corners. (Line "A") Measure that line.

- On a sheet of card stock or thin cardboard, draw a straight baseline the same length as the front of your lighting box. Mark the center, then use your square rule and draw a perpendicular line the same length as line "A" on your pattern. Draw lines on each side from the top of the center line to complete the triangle. Measure "Line B". You will need two of this size triangle, so extend the line from the top of the center, parallel to the base of the triangle and the same length as the width of your lighting box. Draw from the end of that line to the corner base of the first triangle to complete the second triangle.

- Now we need two more triangles - For the base of these two, make a line the same length as the front line from your pattern piece (in my case, it turned out to be the same measurement, which I know makes it confusing in the photos so I hope the markings on the pictures help!) Mark the center of this line and draw a perpendicular line extending well up from the base. Place your ruler at the beginning of the baseline and pivot towards the center line until your measurement where the lines meet at the center matches line "B" from your first set of triangles. Mark this point and draw lines on each side to complete the triangle. Make a second one in the same manner as you copied the first set. Cut out the triangles, loosely tape the triangles together and give them a test fit in the lighting box. Adjust if necessary by trimming the outer edge a little bit at a time (will probably need a little bit of adjustment because of the hinges and width of the wood, but it shouldn't need much - we want it to fit just inside the box) When you are satisfied with the fit, remove triangles from the box and separate them.

- Cut out the paper pattern you used for the sides of the box, align the base of it within the base of the box, and mark where the LED comes through the activation box. Transfer this measurement to one of the larger triangles and cut a hole for the wires to pass through.

- Glue foil to one side of each triangle, leaving an overlap on two of the opposite sides, as shown in the photo. Crinkled foil or smooth, it's up to you. I like crinkled foil because I think it creates more interesting light reflections (besides, I doubt I'd be able to get the foil completely smooth even if I tried to). Glue the triangles together, smoothing the extra foil over the seams. Give it another test fit. We will be focusing the light later when everything is being glued into place, so don't worry about that part now.

Step 5: Make the Lighting Box - Window Dressing

Just for fun I decided to add a special effect to the lighting - the second layer of plastic with the lettering is totally optional, of course.

- Cut two pieces of clear plastic to within 3/16" or so from the edges of the front piece of your lighting box (large enough to cover window, far enough away from the outer edge to allow the front piece to be glued in place). Cut a piece of tracing paper the same size as the plastic. Using masking tape, tape one piece of plastic to the back side of the front piece, and tape your tracing paper sheet over that.

- Place the second piece of plastic over the bone pattern and, using your craft knife or a needle or file, scratch over the lettering to transfer it to the plastic. Don't press too hard, we want the lettering scratched into the plastic without denting the surface. Continue scratching in a cross hatch pattern until the lettering is clearly visible when the plastic is placed over a dark surface.

- Next turn the plastic over and on the back side, shade the letters with pencil - again, don't press too hard.

- Use 1/8" strip basswood to space the second piece of plastic behind the 1st. Hold it up to the light box and see if you can see the letters in normal lighting conditions. They should be invisible, or nearly invisible (because we want them to only show up when the box is lit!) If the letters are still obvious in normal room lighting, add a little extra spacing with paper or thin cardboard until the plastic is far enough away from the front for the letters to remain unseen.

- Un-tape everything and set aside.

Step 6: Create the Housing, Assemble & Finish the Device

- Determine the height of your finished device based on what will be at about nose level for your dog. I decided to make mine 14" high, basing that as between the height of Cody's food & water bowl stand, and the shelf where he has the basket he retrieves with his leash in it. I later realized that I should have made it taller, because he still has a tendency to want to push it with his shoulder instead of his nose. If I remake the base at some point I will put it at his head height or slightly above.

- Create a cardboard mock-up of your base. Basically, it consists of one straight support and two sides, with rails to hold the sandwich portion of the activation box. The first design was a simple tower, but when I had Cody try it, of course he just knocked it down. I added the slanted back to make it more stable. You will want to leave the front open to amplify the sound. (although it isn't very loud in the video, the actual recording is pretty loud - at least loud enough to be heard in nearby rooms where we usually spend our time, but we do have the light as a back-up if we miss it)

- Once you have your cardboard pattern for the base, sand any remaining wood pieces that need to be sanded and start painting - paint the front opening of the light box, and when the paint is dry glue the plastic, tracing paper, spacers, and second piece of plastic in place (make sure you glue them to the back side and have the slant in the right direction, and make sure you have the words backwards - in the right direction for backlighting!).

- While that is drying, paint the light and activation box assembly, insert the reflectors and glue in place. Wrap a small strip of foil around the wires of the LED, push through hole in reflector and aim the light at the center of the reflectors. When you have the light where you want it, glob on the hot glue without mercy to hold it in place.

- Glue front piece onto light box, touch up any painting if necessary. Set the assembly aside to dry while you create the base.

- Using your cardboard pieces as a pattern, cut wood pieces and assemble the base with wood glue. I used 1/8" hard board, but if I had had 1/4" plywood or hard board I would have used that as it would have been a little heavier and more sturdy. Again, take into consideration the size of your dog and how hard they might be bumping the device. The rails are 1/4" and 1/8" strip basswood.

- Paint base with acrylic paints. Sort of going for a "match the tile & don't show up dog nose-prints" paint job on mine. :)

- Slide activation assembly into base and you're done! Well, you are done except for the dog training. I've placed Cody's device near his "corner" by the laundry room, where he has his food and water, but also where we can easily see and hear it. When he runs out of water, I point out his dry bowl and ask if he needs more water, then say "nose it" and point towards the device. Once he activates it, I get him more water, then give him a treat. He has had it for about a week and almost has the concept down. I probably confused him when I took the video, since he actually had water when I told him "nose it". I'm sure he will get it figured out in no time though, since he is the Awesome Dog of Awesomeness.

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    6 years ago on Introduction

    You're awesome! This project is awesome! Cody is The Awesome Dog of Awesomeness!!!