Amazing Talking Dog Can 'Speak' 29 Words

By Dave Basner

November 6, 2019

Using only their dog's barks and body language, most pet owners can communicate with man's best friend, but there has always been a desire to know exactly what their pooch might be trying to say. Now, a speech-language pathologist might have found a way to do it, and she's proving it with her own pup, an 18-month-old Catahoula/Blue Heeler mix named Stella. Rather than trying to figure out if Stella is hungry or tired or needs to go outside, 26-year-old Christina Hunger has Stella tell her exactly what she needs using a soundboard. All Stella has to do is step on the buttons that correspond with what she wants to say.

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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

A post shared by Christina Hunger, MA, CCC-SLP (@hunger4words) on

Hunger created the board herself, recording and programming it with words like "Want," "Outside," "Ball" and "Look," and it is working well. One day, Stella was whining and pacing by the door. While Christina, like any good dog owner, figured Stella just wanted to go out, Stella was able to go to the soundboard and step on "Want," "Jake" and "Come." Minutes later, Christina's fiancé, Jake, came home and Stella ran to him and then to her soundboard to hit "Happy."

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Last night, right before this video was taken, I accidentally said “ball” on Stella’s device while I was actually reaching for a different word. But, Stella took this very seriously! She picked up her ball, dropped it on her device, and said “Good” (Translation: Good idea, Mom!) • I started recording right after she said “Good” and caught the rest of her thought: “Happy ball want outside!” • Like all AAC users, Stella thrives when we talk to her using her device and say words that she loves. She never needs to know it was on accident! 😉 • • • • • #hunger4words #stellathetalkingdog #slpsofinstagram #speechtherapy #AAC #ashaigers #slp #corewords #SLPeeps #slp2be #aacawarenessmonth #earlyintervention #languagedevelopment #dogsofinstagram #dogmom #doglife #dogs #animalpsychology #doglover #dogvideos #sandiegodog #catahoula #blueheeler #smartdog #dogcommunication #mydogtalks #animalcommunication #interspeciescommunication #loveanimals

A post shared by Christina Hunger, MA, CCC-SLP (@hunger4words) on

Hunger, who helps toddlers communicate with adaptive devices, began teaching Stella when the dog was just 8 weeks old. Stella now knows at least 29 words and can combine them to make sentences up to five words long. Christina told People, "I’m in constant amazement and shock. Every day she says something cooler than she said the day before. The way she uses words to communicate and the words she’s combining is really similar to a 2-year-old child."

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Stella adapts her message when she isn’t feeling understood, just like we all do! If someone doesn’t understand us or we don’t get the response we were expecting, we change the words we’re using to explain ourselves better. • Watch this sequence of Stella telling us, three different ways in a row, that she wanted to go play! • First, Stella said “Come play.” When we didn’t come play, she added more details and said, “Outside play love you.” Finally, she got as specific as she could and told us, “Park.” Stella is truly a great communicator! • • • • • #hunger4words #stellathetalkingdog #slpsofinstagram #speechtherapy #AAC #ashaigers #slp #corewords #SLPeeps #slp2be #aacawarenessmonth #earlyintervention #languagedevelopment #dogsofinstagram #dogmom #doglife #dogs #animalpsychology #doglover #dogvideos #sandiegodog #catahoula #blueheeler #smartdog #dogcommunication #mydogtalks #animalcommunication #interspeciescommunication #loveanimals

A post shared by Christina Hunger, MA, CCC-SLP (@hunger4words) on

Hunger plans to continue expanding Stella's vocabulary and wants to teach other dogs as well. You can follow her progress on her aptly named Instagram, @Hunger4Words.

Photo: Getty Images

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