Dogs are the smartest animals on the planet. You can go ahead and fight me on that, I don’t care, I’m sticking to that statement. I can prove it to you, too.
Meet Stella, an 18-month old Catahoula/Blue Heeler Mix, also known as the talking dog. Well, not technically, but she does have a voice. Thanks to her patient owner, Christina Hunger, the pup is learning how to use an adaptive device commonly used by young children, to share her thoughts.
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It was a bit of a manic Monday morning over here! But through the chaos, came great communication from Stella. Take a look at these two videos that show one of Stella’s buttons resetting, and how she responded to this situation. • Video 1: When Stella said “outside,” her back right paw accidentally reset her “beach” button. Stella knows what that beeping sound means because this has happened several times before. Stella commented “Mad” then “Want” but her “want” button didn’t activate either! Unfortunately Stella’s beach button broke. • Video 2: While Jake and I were discussing options, Stella walked to her device, looked where the “beach” button should be, and said, “Help water outside.” 😲😲😲 • We can learn several lessons from our morning! First of all, we should always have backup buttons. Secondly, Stella gets upset when she can’t say one of her favorite words! Situations like these show why AAC users should never have words removed from their devices. Lastly, it’s incredible that Stella found a different way to communicate “beach” since her button was no longer an option.Advertisement
Hunger works as a speech-language pathologist, but at night, she uses her talent skills to teach Stella how to communicate. Stella currently knows a total of 29 words and can form five-word phrases or sentences.
How? Well, Hunger created a system that features a number of buttons that when pressed they play a particular word or sound. She began to teach Stella how to “talk” using the buttons when she was eight weeks old. Now, the smart pupper can express when she wants to go play, eat, walk, or when she needs help. In a way, she communicates as a 2-year-old child would.
The speech pathologist posts video of the pup on her Instagram page, Hunger4words, showing her amazing skills. One video even showed the dog frantically looking outside, scared, pressing the button “look” before repeatedly pressing “come outside” and walking towards the front door. Like I said, smart doesn’t even cut it for Stella!
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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
The 26-year-old said she is amazed as to how far Stella has come and continues to expand her knowledge, eventually wanting to teach other dogs to “speak” the same way Stelle is. As far as her training, it is based on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, which is also known as ACC. Hunger explained that people have two language abilities, one receptive language which is language understanding, and expressive language which is what we say.
Although she knows that dogs can’t speak the same way as humans, canines can express themselves in other ways such as barking or jumping. She began teaching Stella the word “outside.” Hunger would press the button on the custom soundboard and say “outside” before opening the door. Eventually, Stella understood what her mom was doing, and became aware of the connection between the world itself and literally going outside. She then started to press the button independently.
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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 #loveanimalsAdvertisement
As the dog mom began to introduce different words and buttons, the more Stella began to learn. So, similar to how we are able to learn things as children, Steel was able to learn special words by following Hunger’s motions.
Go, Stella, go! You deserve all the belly rubs!