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Dog Learning To Talk Through Custom-Made Soundboard

Wait, what?! We've heard of parents teaching their infants sign language to communicate at an early age, but teaching a dog to talk? That's definitely something you don't see everyday. Or ever. 

Christina Hunger, a speech-language pathologist, has devised a soundboard to help her dog Stella literally tell her things. Things such as being too tired after playing and would like to take a nap, or instead of playing she would rather like to be eating, or even she'd like to go outside. 

Dogs, like all animals, are always trying to communicate with us humans in their own way but with Hunger's soundboard, Stella is quite literally getting her voice heard. 

Story via PEOPLE

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    When the Catahoula/Blue Heeler mix wants to “talk,” she steps on buttons corresponding with words Hunger recorded and programmed into the device.

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    One day, Stella was whining at the front door, started pacing back and forth. Hunger assumed that she wanted to go outside. Stella then walked to her soundboard and tapped out, "Want," "Jake" "Come,"and when Jake arrived home a few minutes later, Stella immediately pressed "Happy."

    "I'm in constant amazement and shock," Hunger tells PEOPLE. "Every day she says something cooler than she said the day before."


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    Hunger began Stella words when she was 8 weeks old. Stella now knows at least 29 words and can even combine up to five words to create a phrase or sentence!

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    "The way she uses words to communicate and the words she's combining is really similar to a 2-year-old child," says Hunger, who documents Stella's progress on her blog, Hunger For Words, and Instagram.

    Hunger For Words, and Instagram.' data-reactid="38" type="text">According to Hunger, Stella's first word she learned to communicate was "walk" and has been a favorite ever since. 

    Hunger For Words, and Instagram.' data-reactid="38" type="text">Another Stella favorite is "beach." Hunger says, "she loves saying 'beach.' She was so happy and still says it very often."



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    Watch Stella in action!

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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"


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    "I AM MIND BLOWN 

    Last night after coming inside, Stella said "Come eat come play." I was pretty sure she meant that she wanted to eat dinner then play, but I asked, "Do you want to eat or play?" to clarify.

    •Stella licked her lips, paused, and responded, "Want come eat." After Stella ate, she immediately dove at her toy and started playing.

    •AHHH! This is amazing for so many reasons! Stella told me a sequence of two things she wanted to do. Then, I asked her a question containing two options, and she answered with a short phrase confirming her original message! Stella even expanded her own phrase from "Come eat " to "Want come eat." The speech therapist side of me is completely amazed, and the dog mom side of me is incredibly proud."


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    Hunger plans to continue teaching Stella new words and wants to teach other dogs how to “speak” as well. “I think how important dogs are to their humans,” Hunger says. “I just imagine how much deeper the bond will be.”

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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!"

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