World Animal Day: Amazing Animals

A dog riding a skateboard
Some dogs can do tricks like this dog riding a skateboard! Believe it or not, one speech therapist taught her dog how to “talk”!

World Animal Day is in October, and it’s a perfect time to pay special attention to your pets! Have you taught your pet any tricks, like rolling over, fetching, or coming when you call their name? Those are all great tricks. But what if you could teach your dog how to talk?

Dogs can “tell” us what they want. They roll over to get their bellies rubbed, bark to get your attention, and go to their empty bowls to “ask” for food. Christina Hunger’s dog, Stella, is able to communicate in other ways.

Christina was studying speech and language when she got her new puppy, Stella. Christina was using tools that helped people with severe speech problems communicate by pointing to pictures on a communication device. Her work with children made her wonder about dogs. If dogs can understand the commands that humans give them, could dogs actually “say” words back to us?

Christina decided to teach Stella a few words with buttons that stood for different words. Stella could step on those buttons with her paws to communicate words. Christina used the same techniques she used to teach children. She gave Stella several buttons that said the words outside, water, and play. Stella learned those words—and then many more!

Over the course of two years, Stella added over 45 words to her vocabulary. She uses question words to ask for things, she comments on what she is doing with Christina, and she “talks” about what they have done. Stella tells what she likes and dislikes and answers Christina’s questions.

Christina wrote a book about helping her dog learn how to communicate. People can also buy buttons and try to work with their own dogs.

Stella showed Christina—and the rest of the world—that dogs have a lot to say!

What Do You Think? Why do you think Christina wanted to teach her dog how to talk? What do you think animals would say if they could communicate with us?

Photo Credit: Lise Gagne/iStock/360/Getty Images