Meet Bunny, the dog who goes viral online so he can ‘talk’ with humans
Every dog owner thinks their pet is the best thing to walk on earth. Being proud of your puppy is part of the territory… that comes from owning a dog and we let people get away with the hype because, well, dogs are awesome. But if there’s anyone who can afford to be a little smug when it comes to their furry friend, it’s Alexis Verge.
Artist and jewelry designer in Tacoma, Washington, you might be wondering what sets Ms. Verge and her dog Bunny apart. No, it’s not her weird name or the fact that she’s a sheep (a cross between an old English sheepdog and a poodle). Bunny is different because she can talk. Yes really.
Anyone with a dog will know that we spend hours of the day chatting with our puppies, most of the time as if they have some idea of what we are talking about. Turns out they might understand more than we thought.
Tell the New York Times tWhile she always knew her dog was ‘meant to talk’, Alexis took inspiration from another dog owner she met online. Immersed in the world of dog cognition, communication and training, her research led her to Christina Hunger, a speech therapist who used her Instagram account to document how her own dog, Stella, was learning English vocabulary.
Made possible by a soundboard featuring a set of different buttons, each saying a different word aloud when pressed. By teaching Stella to type buttons herself, Christina was then able to show her how to start stringing words together to form loosely shaped sentences. The likes of “yes, I want the beach” (which means “yes, I want to go to the beach”), “ball help” (which means “help, my ball is stuck”) or do and be careful of me “).
Very impressed with Stella’s communication skills, Alexis bought her own soundboard from Amazon and followed the same training methods Christina had described in her blog. Now able to “say” over 90 different words (92 to be precise), Bunny has become something of an Internet sensation. Going viral on TikTok, it has 6.6 million subscribers on the platform as well as 818,000 others on Instagram. It’s even the subject of a new scientific study on how animals, like Stella and Bunny, learn to speak through AAC (augmented and alternative communications) devices.
The study currently has over 2,500 participants (including cats, dogs and even horses), each with their own buttons. Cameras are pointed at the panels and images are sent directly to the lab where researchers examine what they see to determine if there are any patterns of behavior or if everything is random and confirmation bias is just doing the rest. work for us.
But it all comes down to a personal connection for Alexis, who said “if she goes out of her way because she trusts me and wants to engage, then I just know she loves me.” Detailing a particular situation where Bunny used her knowledge to communicate that she was in pain, Alexis explained how she pressed the “ouch”, “stranger” and “paw” buttons, before stretching her paw to indicate that something was wrong. “I felt myself between his paws and found a thorn in there. Whenever she chooses to communicate with me in a way that is not her natural method of communication, it’s really special.
Discerning whether Bunny’s button press is a coincidence isn’t of such a big concern to us, who are simply amazed that a dog can learn to talk to its owner in the first place.