Posted 3 months ago
By Lucy Bryant/Fiona Jackson
Ever wondered what it would be like if your dog could talk to you? One very clever canine has quite the vocabulary and can tell her owner how she is feeling and when she wants to go outside.
This genius dog has learned how to 'speak' using a sound board and can now ask to go for walkies – and even tell her owner 'I love you'.
Copper, a red fox Labrador, has learned to press buttons with pre-recorded words to talk to her owner, Tia, 50. Now the intelligent one-year-old can press one of 40 buttons available to communicate her needs. She can ask to be let outside to do her business, and even knows, and communicates, where in the house Tia's daughter Savannah, 11, is located.
Copper with her sound board. (Image: xTiaHerrell (Tia Herrell)/Matthew Newby/SWNS)
Speech-language pathologist Tia made Copper's first sound board herself out of wood, recordable buttons and heavy-duty Velcro.
Mother-of-one Tia said: "I think it's so amazing I can speak to my dog and she can speak back.
"It takes patience and a lot of modelling, but with that she can communicate her feelings and wants and needs to me and the family. That in itself is remarkable. She can tell us what she wants and doesn't want and sometimes when she wants it.
"I love that she can say when she's happy and mad and what elicits those feelings."
Tia made her first sound board because she wanted to see if it would be possible to train her dog to talk with her.
Copper started getting used to the board when she was four months old, as Tia would push the button for 'potty' when she went outside to get her used to it.
After a couple of weeks and a bit of guidance, Copper would press the button herself when she needed the toilet.
From there she learned the word 'outside' for going to play outdoors or go for a walk, and then got to grips with timings like 'later' and 'now'.
She can also ask where things are, like her pig toy or her family, and tell Tia if they are 'outside' or 'upstairs'.
Copper can even attribute emotions like 'happy' and 'mad', but the main things the playful pooch requests are her toys and for back scratches.
Copper pressing the pre-recorded buttons. (Image: xTiaHerrell (Tia Herrell)/Matthew Newby/SWNS)
Tia said: "I have worked with several children using augmentative and alternative communication devices over the past 22 years of being an SLP and thought this could really work.
"She tells me 'Hi, love you'. She tells me when she's happy and what is making her happy like 'Happy snake' because she was happy playing with her toy snake. She asks for walks typically in the morning and late afternoon but she doesn't really ask for food unless she is super hungry."
Tia gets husband Alex Herrell, 58, to help with some of the training, but as she has the most patience it has enabled her to form a very close bond with her canine pal.
Tia said: "I feel that she is very connected to her board and that she likes using it. I feel like we're more connected than we were before she started using the board, like she knows it helps her communicate her thoughts and feelings."
Copper and Tia are now part of a study with UC San Diego's Comparative Cognition Laboratory to see if dogs really can communicate with us. She also tests pre-made sound boards for pets.