Dogs may not be able to speak human English, but they do have ways of communicating with their owners to let us know how they’re feeling and what they want or need. One owner, however, wants to bridge the gap between species and is teaching her dog Stella how to talk. The crazy thing is, it just might be working!
Christina Hunger is a speech-language pathologist. That’s her day job, anyway. Once she gets home, it’s time to start teaching Stella, her 18-month-old Catahoula/Blue Heeler mix, how to talk.
Stella is already picking up human words. According to Hunger, Stella already knows 29 words and can even form short sentences of up to five words. How is that? She uses a board full of buttons, each representing a word that is said aloud when Stella presses it. In that way, she can communicate basic wants and needs. “The way she uses words to communicate and the words she’s combining is really similar to a two-year-old child,” Hunger told People.
She knows how to communicate her feelings. The dog has been known to press the “Look” button when she hears a noise outside, urging her human to check out what’s going on. She can even communicate when she walks to walk or play or when she misses a particular family member.
The first word Stella learned was “Outside.” Hunger uses Augmentative and Alternative Communication to train her pup. She says that we have two forms of language: receptive language, which is basically the way we understand language, and expressive language, which is what we say, even if it’s not always verbal. She started teaching Stella “outside” by pressing the button, then opening the door. Eventually, Stella caught on and began pressing the button on her own whenever she wanted to be outside. From there, she began learning more and more.
You can follow Stella’s journey online. Hunger documents Stella’s learning journey via her Hunger For Words blog as well as her Instagram account, sharing the dog’s progress as well as her day-to-day adventures. “I’m in constant amazement and shock,” Hunger said. “Every day, she says something cooler than she said the day before.”
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Stella uses language differently when she’s in a heightened state versus when she’s calm! • Today when she heard some noises outside and wanted to go investigate, I told her we were staying inside. • Stella responded by saying, “Look” 9 TIMES IN A ROW, then “Come outside.” She was clearly in a more frantic state, and her language use matched that. We all sound differently than normal when we’re in distress, Stella included! • I’m impressed that Stella is communicating with language during her more heightened states, not just when she’s calm and in a quiet space. This shows me that words are becoming more automatic for her to use. It’s similar to when a toddler starts using language to express himself during times of frustration instead of only crying. That happens when it’s easy for the toddler to say words, not when he’s still learning and it takes a lot of focus to talk 🧠🗣 • • • • • #hunger4words #stellathetalkingdog #slpsofinstagram #speechtherapy #AAC #ashaigers #slp #corewords #SLPeeps #slp2be #earlyintervention #languagedevelopment #dogsofinstagram #dogmom #doglife #dogs #guarddog #animalpsychology #doglover #dogvideos #sandiegodog #catahoula #blueheeler #smartdog #dogcommunication #mydogtalks #animalcommunication #interspeciescommunication #loveanimals
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