Smart Dog Learns To Talk With A Word Machine, And She Has A Lot To Say

by Amber

Stella is an 18-month-old pup with an impressive skill—she can talk!

Communication is a constant struggle between humans and dogs. We don’t speak the same language, and discerning a dog’s needs isn’t easy when you’re interpreting tail wags, whines, and barks. Most of us do our best to learn canine body language, but 26-year-old Christina Hunger has come up with a seriously impressive method to communicate with her dog. Christina is a proud dog mom to 18-month-old Stella. She’s also a speech pathologist. The San Diego native combined those two passions to create an incredible way to communicate with her pup. Her dog learned to talk, and she’s sharing that incredible process on Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

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

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

It’s not every day a dog learns to talk, but Stella has been communicating with words since she was eight weeks old. Christina started teaching Stella to use a homemade soundboard as a way to bond with her puppy and apply her career to her puppy parenting. It sounds unbelievable, but Christina and Stella’s method of communication is fairly simple.

Christina created a wooden panel complete with large push buttons. She recorded herself saying different words that Stella relates to most. Stella now knows an impressive 29 words, and they’re all labeled on her special communication board. Some of her favorites are “ball,” “play.” “outside,” “food,” and “love you.”

When Stella hits a button, she hears that word out loud. The smart dog started with using single words to send messages, but now Stella has graduated to combining words to make phrases. For example, Christina shared on Instagram how one day, Stella was whining at the door. Christina assumed her pup wanted to go outside, but Stella was actually sending a different message. She went to her board and pushed the buttons for “Want,” “Jake,” and “Come.” She then continued to wait at the door until Jake, Christina’s fiance, returned home. When Jake arrived, Stella went back to her board and said the word “happy” before flipping over for a belly rub.

Christina says Stella’s language skills are similar to a two-year-old child’s. She even learned to talk in the same way children do. Communicating with Stella isn’t much different than having a conversation with an expressive toddler. When she feels like she isn’t being understood, she adjusts her message to try again. Christina wrote on Instagram,

“Stella adapts her message when she isn’t feeling understood, just like we all do! 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!”

View this post on Instagram

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

Stella’s communication also changes based on her mood. When she’s excited or anxious, Stella repeats words to assert their importance. When she heard a noise outside, for example, she pushed the “Look” button nine times in a row. She then said “Come outside.”

The smart pup also communicates when she wants attention. Christina shared an interaction to Instagram when she and Jake were absorbed in their own activities. Stella wanted their attention, so she went to her soundboard and told them so.

View this post on Instagram

Stella shows us that communication is way more than just saying words! This morning while Jake was on his computer and I was reading, Stella wanted us to look at her. • After she told us “Now now now now Stella Stella look,” Stella patiently waited for us to understand what she was saying. When I finally “got it” and told her I was watching, Stella pounced on her ball. • Stella got our attention by telling us to look at her, waited for confirmation that we understood, then went ahead and started playing. • Successful communication includes sharing a message with someone, waiting for them to respond, understanding their response, and responding or acting accordingly. I love that our little talking dog is such an amazing communicator! ????????????

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

While Stella is constantly creating new phrases and messages, Christina is also learning as she goes. She told PEOPLE,

“I’m in constant amazement and shock. Every day she says something cooler than she said the day before.”

Stella has learned an incredible skill, and she’s not even two years old. She can clearly communicate her wants, needs, and feelings, and her relationship with her favorite humans is better off because of it. A dog learning to talk sounds like science fiction, but thanks to Christina’s success, we expect more dogs will start using soundboards. Stella is paving the way for canine communication!

Follow Stella and Christina on Instagram for more amazing videos!


Related Posts