Speech Pathologist Teaches Her Dog To Use a Soundboard and Now It Communicates In Sentences

Christina Hunger is a speech pathologist in San Diego, who believes that everyone deserves a voice. The 26-year-old works with children, many of whom use adaptive devices to communicate. She began to wonder what would happen if she taught her 2-month-old puppy to do the same thing. Her reasoning was: If dogs can understand words we say to them, shouldn’t they be able to say words to us? Hunger began by simply creating a button that said “outside” and then pressed it every time she said the word or opened the door to let her dog Stella go outside. After a few weeks, every time she said “outside,” Stella looked at the button. It wasn’t long before the pooch began to step on the button every time she wanted to go outside. Hunger soon added more buttons that say “eat,” “water,” “play,” “walk,” “no,” “come,” “help,” “bye,” and “love you.” Every day, Hunger would spend time using Stella’s buttons to talk to her and teach her words just like she would in speech therapy lessons with children. Instead of rewarding Stella with a treat for using a button, she responded by acknowledging the dog’s message and responding accordingly. Today, Stella has learned 29 words and can combine up to 5 at a time to make a phrase or sentence. “I think how important dogs are to their humans and I imagine how much deeper the bond will be,” said Hunger.