Using speak with animal to assist in teaching animal companion tricks.


Hi all. I have a player in a home game who wants to teach his animal companion tricks. He wants to use Speak with Animals to help in the training. The duration of the spell is 1 minute/level.

Handle Animal

You can teach an animal a specific trick with one week of work and a successful Handle Animal check against the indicated DC.

The character in question is 2nd level so two minutes of conversation per casting. If he were to cast it once a day what would be a reasonable benefit?

6 days instead of 7?
+2 bonus vs. the DC to train?
Some other option I haven't considered.

I appreciate any and all responses.

I used to train the party's horses that way with my gnome ranger, though he cast Speak with Animals by a spell-like racial ability before he could cast Ranger spells. I was interested in training on the road using the extra clarity from speaking with the horse, since our party was traveling. My GM allowed that.

A +2 circumstance bonus to the Handle Animal skill check would best fit the Rules as Written. Speaking with the animial is a circumstance that should make handling the animal easier. Circumstance bonuses can stack.

Makes sense to me. Thanks for Chiming in Mathmuse.

I wouldn't give any bonus for that.

Teaching a trick takes 1 week, which we'll assume is 7 days. Requiring 3 hours of work per day, that's 21 hours of training. You will make a Handle Animal check after 3.5 days (10.5 hours). If you fail you can restart, if you pass you must still invest the remaining 10.5 hours of training over the next three days. That's about 1,260 minutes of training required. Casting speak with animals once per day at 2 minutes accounts for 14 of the 1,260 required minutes, approximately 1% of the time needed.

Let's give your trainer the benefit of the doubt and say he can cast the spell 10 times per day, that's 20 minutes per day or 140 minutes out of the entire 1,260 minutes needed. That's about 11% of the time. I wouldn't apply a benefit for a condition that didn't apply to at least 80% to probably 90% of a task's duration (and that's only over multiple days or a week, I would expect a character to have the benefit for the entire duration of a shorter action, like the 2 minutes while Taking 20 for a normal action. Most definitely, if I did give them a bonus (which I wouldn't, but if you do), then I would require them to have to cast it every day even after they make the Handle Animal check until the full training time was completed.

I would likely apply a bonus (probably +2 for favorable conditions) for having speak with animals during a Handle Animal check to push an animal or get it to perform a task (assuming I didn't substitute a Diplomacy check, which is equally likely), but not for having the spell available for such a minuscule amount of time during a task. Similarly, I don't allow the bonus from guidance for tasks that take longer than 1 minute, like Taking 20.

I've been using the generic +2 to the check for favorable circumstances.

The spell helps the animal understand your concept. They still have limited intelligence to deal with it. I would give it a +2 Circumstance bonus on the check.


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I would say that there is no benefit from the spell. First of all the duration is too short to be meaningful in training. The other reason I would not give it a bonus is the spell allows you to communicate with an animal in ways that you normally cannot. In my opinion this would actually hamper the learning of a trick because the spell allows too much communication. With the spell the animal is easily able to understand what you want, but when the spell is no longer in affect cannot understand what you want.

Using the spell is like using a spreadsheet created by someone else to figure out a complicated formula. With the spreadsheet all you need to do is to plug in the numbers and the answer is shown. You don’t need to understand how the spreadsheet works to get the correct answer. Someone how is used to using the spreadsheet and is unable to use it cannot produce the answer unless they also understand the formula’s.

While the spell cannot span all training, a few spells can clear up confusion, and get basic ideas across. A +2 may be too much, but I do think the training will go smoother.


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I would say yes to at least the +2 bonus but I would also consider reducing training time; basically I'd go with whatever helps my players enjoy the game and finding some pedantic reason to say no to what is a relatively small thing just isn't cool. For those who cite duration as a barrier, what if the player is a witch with the Feral Speech hex?

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