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How Stella Learned To Talk

Speech pathologist teaches her dog to communicate using 45+ words

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Doggone amazing: Speech-language pathologist Christina Hunger taught her dog Stella to communicate using the same method she uses to teach children to learn and speak words. Using a custom soundboard, Stella pushes buttons to form phrases up to five words in length. For example, upon hearing a noise outside, an excited Stella put together “Look, look, look, look, look, look, look, look, look! Come outside!” forming perhaps the most dog-like sentence ever.

Other Stella phrasings include, “Park love you come outside!”

“She definitely says ‘outside’ the most,” Hunger told CNN. “She absolutely loves being outside.”

Stella also pressed the button “Help” when one of the buttons she had pushed failed to elicit a sound.

Inset photo by Ariana Velasquez

“I’m in constant amazement,” says Hunger of her dog’s capabilities.

Hunger began teaching Stella after noticing the gestures and vocalizations Stella was already using to express herself. She started with just a few recordable buttons that Stella could push to say, “outside,” “play,” and “water.” Hunger would indicate and name the object/action and push the button to say the word.

Stella has surpassed all of Hunger’s expectations. Stella can now say more than 45 words, ask and answer questions, express her feelings (“mad,” “happy”), and participate in short conversations.

Since Stella’s story broke in 2019, Hunger has inspired dog owners around the world to teach their dogs to talk using the same method, delighting Hunger: “I truly believe that everyone deserves to share their voice.”

Now, Hunger’s new book, How Stella Learned to Talk, released in May, details their fascinating journey together. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in opening the doors of communication with their dog.—Rose Frosek


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