Dogs talking to people – that would be quite an interesting tale. You must have seen talking animals in cartoons and animated movies. Even a few Hollywood movies may have cast animals who talk. But imagine if talking dogs became a reality. It might be scary at first, but then, it will end up deepening the human-dog bond even further.
Dog owners know quite well that their dogs want to communicate with them. However, most of the time, dog owners have to go by instinct to understand what their dog wants. It may not be what they actually desired but then – we can’t really know in any real way what the dog wanted, right?
Well, Christina Hunger, a speech-language pathologist, is trying to do just that. Give ‘the power of speech’ to her dog. She used a strange way to do it though. As a speech-language pathologist, Hunger works in San Diego and comes in contact with many adaptive devices that help these children communicate. Hunger comes across children aged 1-2. She thought of using the same process to teach her dog, Stella, a few words. Stella was just 8 weeks old then.
Hunger used an adaptive device – a custom soundboard with buttons and recorded words to train the Catahoula and Blue Heeler mix. She had programmed specific words into the device that would play when the button is placed. She taught Stella different words and how to construct simple sentences. Now, Stella has a vocabulary of 29 words and can form 4-5 word sentences.
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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
It’s an immense achievement of Hunger that she has been able to train her dog to speak out, or rather indicate what she actually wants. Stella’s language skills have already proved that judging canine instincts is not the way to go. One day, Stella was going round and round the front door. Hunger saw it and justifiably thought that the dog was hungry. But Stella immediately boarded the adaptive device and formed words Want Jake Come. When Jake, Hunger’s fiance, walked through the door, Stella pounded the button saying ‘Happy’ and then, flopped over to invite some belly-rubbing.
Stella continues to grow stronger in her vocabulary. There is an inner desire to learn more in Stella and that’s why she is trying out new words. Hunger documents the educative journey of Stella on her Instagram and Hunger For Words. Stella and Hunger are bonding over words. She has also learned about some of the favorites of Stella. Stella loves the word ‘walk’, which may be one of her favorites. She also loves to say Beach.
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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
Hunger wishes to teach her dog more words and slowly extend this service to other dogs too. Every dog owner wishes to interact with their dogs better and it seems Hunger is on the way to find a solution to it.