If you’ve ever been chilling with your dog and have wondered what exactly’s going on in their head, you’re not alone.
Are they thinking about how much they love me? Are they wondering what they did in a past life to get so lucky to have me as an owner? Or do they just want me to go get them food?
Let’s face it, there’s a 99.9% chance it’s the latter. Regardless, we wouldn’t have to guess if our dogs could just talk to us and let us know what they’re thinking – which is why one woman has devised a way to help her dog communicate.
Speech-language pathologist Christina Hunger, 26, has created a soundboard to help her 18-month-old dog, Stella, communicate not only her words but her thoughts and feelings too.
Now when the Catahoula/Blue Heeler mix wants to talk, all she has to do is step on buttons corresponding with words Christina recorded and programmed into the device, PEOPLE reports.
The soundboard has been so successful Stella’s been able to tell Christina important things using the device, including: when she’s tired and wants a nap; when she’s hungry and wants to be fed; and when she wants to go outside – specifically to the park.
One day in particular, when the puppy was whining at the front door and Christina assumed she wanted to go outside, Stella was able to prevent any further confusion when she walked right up to her device and stepped on the words: ‘Want’, ‘Jake’, and ‘Come’.
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Jake and I have been modeling the words “look” and “all done” a lot over the past few days, and it has paid off! Stella used both words on her own this morning. After saying “look outside” and looking around the apartment, Stella told us she was “all done” and ready for the “park outside.” It’s truly amazing that Stella has the power to tell us when she’s finished with an activity and ready for something else 💫 • • • • • • #hunger4words #talkingdog #speechtherapy #AAC #slp #corewords #ashaigers #SLPeeps #dogsofinstagram #dogmom #dogs #talkingdogs #animalpsychology #doglover #sandiegodog #sandiegodogs #catahoula #blueheeler #smartdog #dogcommunication #mydogtalks #netflixdogstory #interspeciescommunication
She then stood in front of the door until Christina’s fiancé, Jake, came home a few minutes later. After his arrival, the dog went over to the soundboard and pressed ‘happy,’ before rolling over for a belly rub. Incredible.
Christina, who works in San Diego helping one- and two-year-old children with their speech, began teaching Stella words when the dog was around eight weeks old. The pup now knows at least 29 words and is able to combine up to five words to make a phrase or sentence.
The 26-year-old told PEOPLE:
I’m in constant amazement and shock. Every day she says something cooler than she said the day before. The way she uses words to communicate and the words she’s combining is really similar to a 2-year-old child.
So which words are Stella’s absolute favourites? ‘Walk’, of course, with the dog using it over and over again when she first learnt the word. ‘I didn’t realise how much she was waiting to say it,’ Christina explained.
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Happy National Dog Day to my favorite talking pup! Stella brings so much joy, laughter, surprise, and inspiration to my life every day. I can’t wait to see her keep showing the world what dogs are capable of saying! 💫 🐶💭 • • • • • • #hunger4words #talkingdog #speechtherapy #AAC #slp #corewords #ashaigers #SLPeeps #dogsofinstagram #dogmom #dogs #talkingdogs #animalpsychology #doglover #sandiegodog #sandiegodogs #catahoula #blueheeler #smartdog #dogcommunication #mydogtalks #SLPdog #nationaldogday
‘Beach’ is another favourite, with the speech-language pathologist saying the pup was ‘so happy’ when she first learnt it and ‘still says it very often’.
Christina plans to continue teaching Stella new words, and wants to teach other dogs how to speak as well because she can ‘imagine how much deeper the bond will be’ between pets and their owners if they can understand each other.
What a clever doggo (and owner).
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).