Every morning after I get up and make coffee, Stella comes out to the living room and we talk together. This is always one of my favorite times of the day! • Stella tells me what she wants to do, or where she wants to go, or how she’s feeling. I love listening to her, and understanding what’s going through her mind. • In this video, Stella told me “yes park.” I told Stella we were waiting for Jake to finish getting ready, and she responded “mad look.” When Jake opened the door, Stella said “yes,” then greeted him with her happy gestures: ears back and tail wagging. She was excited to see Jake and head to the park! • #hunger4words Christina Hunger, MA, CCC-SLP
A photo posted by @hunger4words on Jun 23, 2020 at 9:59am PDT
Have you ever thought, "Gee, I wish my dog could talk?" Well, at least two impressive canines can – with the help of a soundboard, that is.
Both Stella (Instagram: @Hunger4Words) and Bunny (TikTok: @what_about_bunny) are dogs who have learned how to communicate with their owners by stepping on buttons on soundboard. Each button is assigned a word, and pressing on that button will play a recording of their human saying that word aloud.
Stella's mom is Christina Hunger, a 26-year-old speech-language pathologist who figured out how to communicate better with her Catahoula/Blue Heeler mix. According to an article from People, the San Diego speech-language pathologist used her work with adaptive devices and 1- and 2-year old children to start teaching Stella words when she was only eight week sold. As of November 2019, Stella knew 29 words – and it's safe to say she knows even more now.
Stella tends to get impatient as we’re cooking dinner because when Jake and I eat, Stella enjoys a treat in her Kong. And after dinner, we all typically take a walk together. Stella wants her treat, and she wants to go outside when we’re all done! • After Jake had been cooking for a while, Stella said, “All done,” walked to her toy bin (where her Kong was), then walked back to supervise Jake in the kitchen. Jake responded, “No all done Stella. Still cooking.” Stella then said, “Where all done mad eat eat eat outside come outside.” (Translation: Where is it? I’m done waiting. Let’s eat so we can go outside!) • Side note - Stella’s “outside” button finally needs replacing after two years of heavy use! • Stella livens up all the routines in our day. We love hearing what she has to say ✨ Christina Hunger, MA, CCC-SLP
A photo posted by @hunger4words on May 15, 2020 at 8:30am PDT
Stella uses her soundboard to tell her mom and dad when she wants to go out, when she wants to play, and much, much more. In fact, Hunger is still sometimes puzzled by Stella, who seems to be learning how to use her soundboard in increasingly unique ways and seems determined to make sure she's understood. In one Instagram post, Hunger details how she thought Stella was ready to go out and play, as she always does after she eats. But Stella hadn't eaten all of her food yet, so when Hunger asked, "where play?" through the soundboard, Stella walked over to her dish, checked to make sure her mom was watching, and finished her breakfast!
What is love? ##learnontiktok ##tiktokpartner ##whataboutbunny ##foryou ##ChemicalHearts♬ original sound - what_about_bunny
Then there's Bunny, a dog who seems to have developed a sense of humor while learning how to speak. The sheepadoodle (a mix between a poodle and a sheepdog), can reportedly use more than 40 words, according to Today.com. Bunny's mom, Alexis Devine, is using the same type of augmented communication device as Christina Hunger to teach Bunny how to communicate more clearly – although Devine's devices are grouped in hexagons based on word type.
The buttons are arranged in a system known as the Fitzgerald Key, which organizes words by sentence parts like subjects, verbs, and objects. Devine reports that this organization helps Bunny with her syntax and communication.
From her TikTok videos, it seems like Bunny can use the buttons to identify her mom, dad, and friends, and to request "scritches," but what may be the best thing I've seen yet is Bunny's sense of humor. Check out the TikTok below to see it on full display.
😂 ##PetsOfTikTok ##part2 ##whataboutbunny ##NobodyNeedsToKnow♬ original sound - what_about_bunny
Yes, that is Bunny wrongfully thinking there's a stranger in the house just to go on a hunt to find that stranger with her mom, and end the fruitless search with an "oops." If that didn't make you laugh, nothing will.
So, cuteness and amazingness aside – are Stella and Bunny really talking? Check out this Slate article for an in-depth look at the possibility, which suggests the dogs may not fully understand what they're saying, but may be really good mimickers. In short, more evidence is needed to determine if Stella, Bunny, and other dogs using augmented speech pathology devices are actually speaking to us.
Either way, it's pretty amazing to see a dog "talk," isn't it?
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