Can Dogs “Talk”? What One SLP is Doing to Prove They Can

If you are a pet owner, you probably talk to your furry friends. Depending on the type of animal, there are varying degrees with how much they understand. But you may be surprised: the average dog can comprehend up to 165 words.

And your pet has different methods of communicating back with you, through gestures like jumping around when excited. But have you ever wondered what it would be like if your pet could use language to communicate?

This story about how one speech therapist teaches her dog to talk will astound you. It has required a lot of time, work, and patience, but the results have been astonishing.

If you are interested in learning more about communicating with pets, keep reading to find out about some of the fantastic things they can do.

Speech Therapist Teaches Her Dog to Talk

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) named Christina Hunger, along with her dog. Stella is making the fairy tale of a talking dog come true. The speech therapist teaches her dog to talk using an adaptive device that enunciates more than 20 different feelings, actions, and objects. It does so when Stell presses corresponding buttons located on a pad.

These actions and objects include things like “happy,” “want,” “outside,” “ball,” and “Jake,” the name of Christina’s husband. It allows Stella to indicate if she would like to take a nap, is hungry, wants to go outside to play, and many other things.

But Stella doesn’t just use the device when she wants something. Through it, she can communicate her thoughts and concerns. For instance, when she hears a noise outside their home, she presses “look” and “outside” to prompt Christina to do just that. She also expresses emotions, such as “mad” or “love you.”

The Process

Christina, who has a speech therapy practice in San Diego, came up with this idea while working with young children. Many of them rely on similar adaptive devices to communicate. Christina started toying around with the system when Stella was eight weeks old.

It has taken some time for Stella to develop the tools necessary to communicate through the device. It required Christina to model the words while pushing the corresponding button, over and over again. She has documented this progression through pictures and videos on her Instagram page.

The level of Stella’s sophistication with language has been surprising and astounding even to Christina. Today, Stella knows at least 29 words and can string together five-word phrases or sentences.

And “Stella the talking dog” continues to advance in her ability to piece together increasingly complex sentences. For instance, “happy ball want outside” is a daily request she communicates with precision. And one time, when a defective button stopped working, Stella immediately asked Christina for “help.”

Christina already had Stella, who is a blue heeler/Catahoula mix, when she started exploring the prospects of implementing the adaptive device. So, it wasn’t a matter of finding “what dog is right for this experiment.” In fact, Christina is optimistic that the system can be used for all types of canine communication, including police dogs.

Want to Know More?

If you are interested in learning more about how this speech therapist teaches her dog to talk, she has documented their journey on her website. The online journal isn’t simply about her and Stella though. It contains a wealth of information on communicating with animals.

Also, check out other information related to pet health and care, such as coronavirus guidance for animal owners, on our blog. We have advice on a number of topics to help you keep your pet healthy and happy.

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