Stella is an 18-month-old pup with an impressive skill—she can talk!
Communication is a constant struggle between humans and dogs. We don’t speak the same language, and discerning a dog’s needs isn’t easy when you’re interpreting tail wags, whines, and barks. Most of us do our best to learn canine body language, but 26-year-old Christina Hunger has come up with a seriously impressive method to communicate with her dog. Christina is a proud dog mom to 18-month-old Stella. She’s also a speech pathologist. The San Diego native combined those two passions to create an incredible way to communicate with her pup. Her dog learned to talk, and she’s sharing that incredible process on Instagram.
It’s not every day a dog learns to talk, but Stella has been communicating with words since she was eight weeks old. Christina started teaching Stella to use a homemade soundboard as a way to bond with her puppy and apply her career to her puppy parenting. It sounds unbelievable, but Christina and Stella’s method of communication is fairly simple.
Christina created a wooden panel complete with large push buttons. She recorded herself saying different words that Stella relates to most. Stella now knows an impressive 29 words, and they’re all labeled on her special communication board. Some of her favorites are “ball,” “play.” “outside,” “food,” and “love you.”
When Stella hits a button, she hears that word out loud. The smart dog started with using single words to send messages, but now Stella has graduated to combining words to make phrases. For example, Christina shared on Instagram how one day, Stella was whining at the door. Christina assumed her pup wanted to go outside, but Stella was actually sending a different message. She went to her board and pushed the buttons for “Want,” “Jake,” and “Come.” She then continued to wait at the door until Jake, Christina’s fiance, returned home. When Jake arrived, Stella went back to her board and said the word “happy” before flipping over for a belly rub.
Christina says Stella’s language skills are similar to a two-year-old child’s. She even learned to talk in the same way children do. Communicating with Stella isn’t much different than having a conversation with an expressive toddler. When she feels like she isn’t being understood, she adjusts her message to try again. Christina wrote on Instagram,
“Stella adapts her message when she isn’t feeling understood, just like we all do! First, Stella said “Come play.” When we didn’t come play, she added more details and said, “Outside play love you.” finally she got as specific as she could and told us, “Park.” Stella is truly a great communicator!”
Stella’s communication also changes based on her mood. When she’s excited or anxious, Stella repeats words to assert their importance. When she heard a noise outside, for example, she pushed the “Look” button nine times in a row. She then said “Come outside.”
The smart pup also communicates when she wants attention. Christina shared an interaction to Instagram when she and Jake were absorbed in their own activities. Stella wanted their attention, so she went to her soundboard and told them so.
While Stella is constantly creating new phrases and messages, Christina is also learning as she goes. She told PEOPLE,
“I’m in constant amazement and shock. Every day she says something cooler than she said the day before.”
Stella has learned an incredible skill, and she’s not even two years old. She can clearly communicate her wants, needs, and feelings, and her relationship with her favorite humans is better off because of it. A dog learning to talk sounds like science fiction, but thanks to Christina’s success, we expect more dogs will start using soundboards. Stella is paving the way for canine communication!
Follow Stella and Christina on Instagram for more amazing videos!