Speech pathologist, Christina Hunger, frequently uses Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices at her job, so she decided she would experiment with using the devices with her puppy, Stella. The results have been astounding.
Hunger explained that every human has two types of language capacities, receptive and expressive. Dogs also have both, which can be seen in how they regularly wag their tails or bark and whine, sigh, jump with excitement, etc. These sort of behaviors are examples of expressive language in the canine world, which suggest that dogs do have a desire to communicate.
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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
These observations led to Hunger's prediction that the AAC technology used typically for children who are nonverbal, might just work for dogs, too.
Hunger and her fiancé programmed a single button with the world "outside" recorded to begin trying to train Stella at just 2 months old. Every time they took Stella outside, they would hit the outside button. Not long after, Stella was hitting the button herself when she wanted to go out.
After she learned "outside" and the concept of hitting the button, Hunger added more words to her repertoire.
"If Jake and I were distracted, Stella began saying 'play' repeatedly until we threw her toy or engaged in tug of war. Stella would walk to her water bowl, notice it was empty and say 'water.' If we had finished dinner and didn't mention going for a walk yet, Stella would say 'walk' multiple times while staring at us. If her toy was stuck under the couch, she would say 'help' and stand right where she needed Jake or I to look. When our friends were putting their jackets on or were standing by the door, she would say 'bye' to them. Jake and I were simply amazed."
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We are all smiles this Saturday morning because Stella is KILLING us with her communication!!! First we gave Stella new food for breakfast, which turns out she did not like 👎🏼 After walking away from her bowl multiple times, she said, “Eat no” and laid on the couch. Then we were cleaning up a bit when Stella told us, “All done walk happy walk happy want.” Someone sure wants us to enjoy the weekend! As if that weren’t enough, Stella declared “Stella bye love you” and stood in front of the door. 👋🏼❤️ I just can’t say it enough, this is AMAZING!!! • • • • • #hunger4words #talkingdog #everyonedeservesavoice #speechtherapy #AAC #slp #corewords #SLPeeps #earlyintervention #languagedevelopment #dogsofinstagram #dogmom #dogs #animalpsychology #doglover #sandiegodog #catahoula #blueheeler #smartdog #dogcommunication #mydogtalks #SLPdog #dognition #animalcommunication #interspeciescommunication #loveanimals #respectanimals
Now, Stella can string together words to communicate more complex needs or feelings.
For example, Hunger said, "One afternoon, shortly after the Daylight Savings time change, Stella said, 'eat' repeatedly at about 3:00 PM. When Jake and I did not feed her dinner this early she said, 'love you no' and walked into the other room."
Stella now knows 29 different words and this dog is very impressive. She continues to evolve and communicate in more complex ways. To follow along with Stella the "talking dog" you can follower her owner's Instagram account "Hunger4Words."