How Stella Learned to Talk

Christina Hunger

24 June 2021
272 pages


'A wonderful book.' - Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

An instant New York Times bestseller

An incredible, revolutionary true story and surprisingly simple guide to teaching your dog to 'talk' from speech-language pathologist Christina Hunger, who has taught her dog, Stella, to communicate using simple paw-sized buttons associated with different words.

When speech-language pathologist Christina Hunger first came home with her puppy, Stella, it didn't take long for her to start drawing connections between her job and her new pet. During the day, she worked with toddlers with significant delays in language development and used Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices to help them communicate. At night, she wondered: if dogs can understand words we say to them, shouldn't they be able to say words to us? Can dogs use AAC to communicate with humans?

Christina decided to put her theory to the test with Stella and started using a paw-sized button programmed with her voice to say the word 'outside' when clicked, whenever she took Stella out of the house. A few years later, Stella now has a bank of more than thirty word buttons, and uses them daily either individually or together to create near-complete sentences.

How Stella Learned to Talk is part memoir and part how-to guide. It chronicles the journey Christina and Stella have taken together, from the day they met, to the day Stella 'spoke' her first word, and the other breakthroughs they've had since. It also reveals the techniques Christina used to teach Stella, broken down into simple stages and actionable steps any dog owner can use to start communicating with their best four-legged friend.

Filled with conversations that Stella and Christina have had, as well as the attention to developmental detail that only a speech-language pathologist could know, How Stella Learned to Talk will be the indispensable dog book for the new decade.

A talented speech therapist who works with children, Christina Hunger trained her puppy to use words in a meaningful way. She was amazed that language learning in her dog was similar to that of a young child. The results speak for themselves. A wonderful book.
When we are open to the idea that communicating with another species is possible, and provide a language-enriched environment, we create the space for shared language and a deep connection. Christina has provided the key that unlocks this potential for all of us.
This delightful book is a joy to read. But it also has an important message for the study of animal languages: When you think outside the box, you can come up with amazing results. Christina has shown that a dog has the cognitive capability to learn to use buttons as words and to formulate meaningful sentences. She also has very practical advice on how to teach your dog to do the same. I highly recommend this book.