Stella has a lot on her mind, and she's starting to learn how to say so.
The 18-month-old dog, who's been learning how to "speak" from her owner, already knows 29 different words — and she's starting to form complete sentences, PEOPLE reported.
Stella's remarkable ability is the result of plenty of training with her owner, Christina Hunger, a speech pathologist living in San Diego, Calif. The 26-year-old, who tracks her pet's progress on both her Instagram page and her blog, Hunger for Words, developed a system of buttons that allows Stella to "talk."
Stella adapts her message when she isn’t feeling understood, just like we all do! If someone doesn’t understand us or we don’t get the response we were expecting, we change the words we’re using to explain ourselves better. • Watch this sequence of Stella telling us, three different ways in a row, that she wanted to go play! • 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! • • • • • #hunger4words #stellathetalkingdog #slpsofinstagram #speechtherapy #AAC #ashaigers #slp #corewords #SLPeeps #slp2be #aacawarenessmonth #earlyintervention #languagedevelopment #dogsofinstagram #dogmom #doglife #dogs #animalpsychology #doglover #dogvideos #sandiegodog #catahoula #blueheeler #smartdog #dogcommunication #mydogtalks #animalcommunication #interspeciescommunication #loveanimals
A post shared by Christina Hunger, MA, CCC-SLP (@hunger4words) on Oct 29, 2019 at 9:20am PDT
The paw-sized buttons, which omit a human voice saying each word as they're pressed, allow Stella to step on the "word" she wants to say to her owner. Hunger said the system has already allowed her dog to form complete thoughts.
"I’m in constant amazement and shock," Hunger told PEOPLE. "Every day she says something cooler than she said the day before."
Stella will use words like "walk," "come" and "happy" to tell her owner what she wants. Hunger said she can even notice an emotional reaction from her pet, who gets excited when she's able to express a new word.
"She loves saying 'beach,'" Hunger told PEOPLE. "She was so happy [when she learned it] and still says it very often."
Jake and I have been modeling the words “look” and “all done” a lot over the past few days, and it has paid off! Stella used both words on her own this morning. After saying “look outside” and looking around the apartment, Stella told us she was “all done” and ready for the “park outside.” It’s truly amazing that Stella has the power to tell us when she’s finished with an activity and ready for something else 💫 • • • • • • #hunger4words #talkingdog #speechtherapy #AAC #slp #corewords #ashaigers #SLPeeps #dogsofinstagram #dogmom #dogs #talkingdogs #animalpsychology #doglover #sandiegodog #sandiegodogs #catahoula #blueheeler #smartdog #dogcommunication #mydogtalks #netflixdogstory #interspeciescommunication
A post shared by Christina Hunger, MA, CCC-SLP (@hunger4words) on Aug 13, 2019 at 8:38am PDT
And some of that expression has gotten pretty complex. Hunger's Instagram describes one surprising instance when Stella's speaking board temporarily broke.
"Immediately after, Stella said, 'look' then walked to the broken button and... HELD DOWN THE BUTTON WHILE STARING AT US (as if to say 'look this button isn't working')," Hunger wrote in an Instagram post.
That incident was in August, and now, months later, the 18-month-old is able to communicate fully formed phrases. Hunger said Stella can combine up to five words at once.
"The way she uses words to communicate and the words she’s combining is really similar to a 2-year-old child," Hunger, who often works with young children, told PEOPLE.
Hunger describes herself in her Instagram bio as the "speech-language pathologist who discovered how dogs can talk," and she told PEOPLE she now wants to teach more of them. In the meantime, she's continuing to teach Stella new words and learning more about what pet's wants and needs.
"I think [about] how important dogs are to their humans," Hunger told PEOPLE. "I just imagine how much deeper the bond will be."
A post shared by Christina Hunger, MA, CCC-SLP (@hunger4words) on Aug 8, 2019 at 7:18pm PDT