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Old 7th November 2019, 01:26 PM   #1
SOdhner
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Stella the Talking Dog

https://www.hungerforwords.com/

So this woman started her dog out with one button, which plays a sound clip of her saying a word. Over time she's expanded the setup quite a bit and now supposedly the dog is using the communication buttons for multi-word "sentences".

Each individual part of this makes sense - I know that dogs can learn words, I know they can hit buttons in order to request something or communicate something, and I know they're smart enough to grasp the concept of having multiple buttons and search for the one they need.

And yet, this is still setting off a lot of red flags for me. The video clips are short and often subjective. The blog posts seem to attribute way more skill and intent than is seen in the videos. There are buttons on there for things like emotions, and I'm not convinced the dog understands them.

What are your thoughts?
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Old 7th November 2019, 02:00 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by SOdhner View Post
https://www.hungerforwords.com/

So this woman started her dog out with one button, which plays a sound clip of her saying a word. Over time she's expanded the setup quite a bit and now supposedly the dog is using the communication buttons for multi-word "sentences".

Each individual part of this makes sense - I know that dogs can learn words, I know they can hit buttons in order to request something or communicate something, and I know they're smart enough to grasp the concept of having multiple buttons and search for the one they need.

And yet, this is still setting off a lot of red flags for me. The video clips are short and often subjective. The blog posts seem to attribute way more skill and intent than is seen in the videos. There are buttons on there for things like emotions, and I'm not convinced the dog understands them.

What are your thoughts?
I've only looked at a couple of videos. My general thoughts on this are that it's just about impossible to determine how well the dog really understands the whole process. As a long time dog owner, I know that dogs can learn a fair number of words, and at least some can learn very simple sentences (they might learn, for example to distinguish, "Get the ball", from "Get the stick"). My Mom, who grew up on a ranch, told me that she had a border collie who knew the names of all their cows and could cut the right one out of the herd; when told to "Get Sally" he would cut the cow named "Sally" from the herd. This was before I was born, so I never personally witnessed the behavior.

As for the claimed behavior in the blog and videos, it's really hard to tell. The dog is clearly pushing buttons and getting rewarded for the behavior, but it would take much more careful control than is apparently being used to determine how well the dog actually understands what it is "saying". There is a lot of opportunity here for a "Clever Hans" scenario (Clever Hans was a horse in 19th century Germany who could apparently solve arithmetic problems written on a chalkboard. His owner would write, e.g. 2 x 6 on the board, and Hans would stomp his hoof 12 times. More careful analysis revealed that Hans was actually reading apparently unintentional start and stop cues from his owners body language. Pretty smart for a horse, but not quite as smart as his owner imagined).

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Old 7th November 2019, 03:14 PM   #3
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Not sure of the OP's opinion on emotions. I suspect the natural
"dog language" is ALL emotional. Growling at strangers, yipping when they are happy,.... Tough thing would getting the dog to associate buttons with emotions.

Unless when Mama says "LOve" and the dog hits the Love button, that is word recognition NOT emotions.
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Old 7th November 2019, 03:34 PM   #4
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A border collie named Chaser has learned the names of 1,022 individual items — more than any other animal, even the legendary Alex the parrot.
https://www.popsci.com/science/artic...022-toys-name/
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Old 7th November 2019, 03:37 PM   #5
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Looking at the ears, I'd say this dog is part aardvark. It could be a clue. Are they actually claiming it's 100% canine?
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Old 7th November 2019, 03:59 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
Not sure of the OP's opinion on emotions. I suspect the natural
"dog language" is ALL emotional. Growling at strangers, yipping when they are happy,.... Tough thing would getting the dog to associate buttons with emotions.

Unless when Mama says "LOve" and the dog hits the Love button, that is word recognition NOT emotions.

Oh, yes. Dogs not only understand emotions, their whole world is built on emotions, and they respond with them when receive the appropriate stimulus.

Jingle the car keys and the dog shows excitement

My dog knows when it is trouble and acts accordingly. Say "What have you done?" and the dog displays guilt
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Old 7th November 2019, 06:24 PM   #7
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It has always been amusing how my dog, in the middle of the night sleeps through racoons on the deck, a cat fight across the street. But let me get up and tiptoe three rooms down, open the cheese wrapper and like magic, she's there.

I guess she will sleep through any possible predator or invasion, but not the cheese wrapper.
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Old 7th November 2019, 06:28 PM   #8
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wait, are you saying you still eat those (fake) old timey cheese slices moms used for lunch bags?
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Old 7th November 2019, 06:49 PM   #9
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Dogs love Limburger because it smells exactly like dog feces which they adore.
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Old 8th November 2019, 11:31 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
Dogs love Limburger because it smells exactly like dog feces which they adore.
The dogs I have had seem to prefer feces of other species (cat, human or horse especially) to dog feces.
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Old 8th November 2019, 12:46 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by CORed View Post
The dogs I have had seem to prefer feces of other species (cat, human or horse especially) to dog feces.
Isn't prefer the operational word here?
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Old 8th November 2019, 05:44 PM   #12
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Here is an actual talking dog a little past :50 in this video:

http://latenightfeud.com/video/taylo...ldog-can-talk/

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Old 8th November 2019, 06:08 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Sideroxylon View Post
A border collie named Chaser has learned the names of 1,022 individual items — more than any other animal, even the legendary Alex the parrot.
https://www.popsci.com/science/artic...022-toys-name/
Yep. I know the story. It actually upset me a bit: I had a dog who learned to recognise the names of 50 of his stuffed toys and I was very proud of him. And then I found this :-).
I think we totally underestimate the brains dogs have - like I read some smart scientist saying they are not capable of abstract thinking. Well, I trained my dog not to go through a door unless I give him a permission to do so. I trained him inside a house with a normal swinging doors. Without any further training the dog later applied this rule on any sliding door and even to gates in farm fences. If this is not an abstract thinking, what is?
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Old 8th November 2019, 10:11 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by CORed View Post
I've only looked at a couple of videos. My general thoughts on this are that it's just about impossible to determine how well the dog really understands the whole process. As a long time dog owner, I know that dogs can learn a fair number of words, and at least some can learn very simple sentences (they might learn, for example to distinguish, "Get the ball", from "Get the stick"). My Mom, who grew up on a ranch, told me that she had a border collie who knew the names of all their cows and could cut the right one out of the herd; when told to "Get Sally" he would cut the cow named "Sally" from the herd. This was before I was born, so I never personally witnessed the behavior.

As for the claimed behavior in the blog and videos, it's really hard to tell. The dog is clearly pushing buttons and getting rewarded for the behavior, but it would take much more careful control than is apparently being used to determine how well the dog actually understands what it is "saying". There is a lot of opportunity here for a "Clever Hans" scenario (Clever Hans was a horse in 19th century Germany who could apparently solve arithmetic problems written on a chalkboard. His owner would write, e.g. 2 x 6 on the board, and Hans would stomp his hoof 12 times. More careful analysis revealed that Hans was actually reading apparently unintentional start and stop cues from his owners body language. Pretty smart for a horse, but not quite as smart as his owner imagined).
Those are some of the things that jumped out to me, as well. Overall, it reminds me of the ongoing controversy that surrounds pretty much all study of animal language in the linguistic community. Koko the gorilla probably being the best example. There's still so much disagreement over how much she could comprehend, what was the trainer's interpretation, the role of rewards, etc. that it's impossible to draw any solid conclusions about whether Koko could communicate with humans. And that's with an animal much more capable of human-like comprehension than a dog. In general, my default is always that animals can learn to understand quite a bit of their handlers' commands, and that they're generally capable of higher cognition than most people realize, but it's also incredibly easy to train the kind of responses people desperately want to see regarding communication.

And that really hints at a key issue here: people love anthropomorphizing their animals. They want to think that their pets can understand them and that there's a meaningful, two-way relationship going on. That's probably true to an extent (I can tell when a dog wants to play, or when I've built up a level of respect with a cat), but animals just don't present human cognition and language skills, as far as we can tell. After watching a few of those videos, all I see is a well-trained dog. I really don't see any evidence she comprehends two-way speech, just that her trainer thinks she does. I imagine if an impartial observer came to test this dog's conversation skills, the responses would end up being gibberish, much like what was often the case with Koko.

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Old 8th November 2019, 10:43 PM   #15
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Just posting to back up the other "dog knows the names of toys" comments.

My Jack Russell had a lot of toys, and knew them all by names. She also understood "left", "right" and "there it is". This happened by accident, as she'd lose her green tennis ball in a green field, and I'd tell her where it was.

I'm also convinced that she would show intent. For example, getting me to follow her outside because there was a neighbour's ball in the chicken run.

On one occasion, she dragged a pillow into the lounge and plonked it down on the floor in front of the gas heater, and then barked at me.

(My brother claimed that she had a "it's broken, fix it." bark.)

So, I turned the heater on.

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Old 8th November 2019, 11:56 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Oh, yes. Dogs not only understand emotions, their whole world is built on emotions, and they respond with them when receive the appropriate stimulus.

Jingle the car keys and the dog shows excitement

My dog knows when it is trouble and acts accordingly. Say "What have you done?" and the dog displays guilt
A myth, apparently.
Your dog is not feeling guilt, but fear of you.
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Old 9th November 2019, 12:52 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
A myth, apparently.
Your dog is not feeling guilt, but fear of you.
Well... I am sure I can tell the difference. I had six dogs in my life and this particular case - each of them was perfectly capable of displaying guilt and I could tell when they were afraid too - of me or anything else. A completely different behaviour.
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Old 9th November 2019, 08:28 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by pittsburghjoe View Post
wait, are you saying you still eat those (fake) old timey cheese slices moms used for lunch bags?
Even worse, she gets out of a nice warm bed to eat this crap.
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Old 9th November 2019, 12:33 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by CORed View Post
The dogs I have had seem to prefer feces of other species (cat, human or horse especially) to dog feces.
Herbivore dung is an easy source of nutrients that dogs find hard to extract themselves, as far as cat, human or other dog faeces is concerned, they like it from overfed examples of any of them, they're attracted to undigested food value. My dog is pretty good about it these days, but his eating dog feaces is noticeably a problem in the places where 'drive here and throw a ball for five minutes' is considered excercise.
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Old 9th November 2019, 12:53 PM   #20
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We had a cat that learned all the "bad" words. She was a Himalayan with very long and tangly hair; and a pushed in face that caused her eyes to run.
She knew "comb", "brush", "groom", "mat", and "eyes" and would immediately make herself scarce on hearing them.
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Old 9th November 2019, 01:03 PM   #21
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My cat seems to understand several words. He loves to take walks with the dog when I take her out. I just have to say, "Shall we take a walk", and Pancho goes to the door and waits. He loves it when I comb him, and only have to say, Let's get the comb, and he prances in approval.

He adores my young granddaughters, and reacts to their individual names. Pancho has never seemed to be very smart. In the beginning I thought he may be a bit retarded. I can only imagine what smart cats understand.
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Old 9th November 2019, 02:56 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
It has always been amusing how my dog, in the middle of the night sleeps through racoons on the deck, a cat fight across the street. But let me get up and tiptoe three rooms down, open the cheese wrapper and like magic, she's there.

I guess she will sleep through any possible predator or invasion, but not the cheese wrapper.
The sound of a cheese wrapper overpowers all other instincts in dogs. It goes back to their prehistoric days when a good aged cheddar was their primary sustenance. They learned at at early age to come running whenever they heard their mother opening cheese. When the “great cheddar extinction” occurred dogs were forced to switch to meat, but their instinct to go to cheese, wherever it may be, is still all-powerful for them.
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Old 9th November 2019, 03:34 PM   #23
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Our dog knows to wait at the back door for his paws to be wiped clean with the towel I keep hung there for him, before he comes running into the house. I open the door, he comes in and sits at the back landing lifting his first paw waiting for me to clean it.

The wrath of running across mom's nice clean kitchen floor with muddy paws (including Dad's muddy paws) is an evil incarnation neither of them ever want to experience again.
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Old 9th November 2019, 04:34 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Steve View Post
The sound of a cheese wrapper overpowers all other instincts in dogs. It goes back to their prehistoric days when a good aged cheddar was their primary sustenance. They learned at at early age to come running whenever they heard their mother opening cheese. When the “great cheddar extinction” occurred dogs were forced to switch to meat, but their instinct to go to cheese, wherever it may be, is still all-powerful for them.
Are you suggesting she is less then domesticated? I believe she would kill for certain foods, like cheese, bacon, turkey and pizza. Yes, you never want to try to take pizza away from her.
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Old 9th November 2019, 04:37 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Steve View Post
It goes back to their prehistoric days when a good aged cheddar was their primary sustenance.
Yes, and that's also when the phrase "say cheese" came into use. It was all about the dogs.
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Old 9th November 2019, 04:38 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
We had a cat that learned all the "bad" words. She was a Himalayan with very long and tangly hair; and a pushed in face that caused her eyes to run.
She knew "comb", "brush", "groom", "mat", and "eyes" and would immediately make herself scarce on hearing them.
This is a dog thread. Reported.
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Old 9th November 2019, 04:44 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
My cat seems to understand several words. He loves to take walks with the dog when I take her out. I just have to say, "Shall we take a walk", and Pancho goes to the door and waits. He loves it when I comb him, and only have to say, Let's get the comb, and he prances in approval.

He adores my young granddaughters, and reacts to their individual names. Pancho has never seemed to be very smart. In the beginning I thought he may be a bit retarded. I can only imagine what smart cats understand.
I am sure you will see no difference if you say "shall we take a wake? Or, "let's get the bomb"
I am also certain that if you say "Shall we take a walk" in a very loud and angry voice you will not get the same response as if you said it in a enthusiastic, happy way.
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Old 9th November 2019, 04:48 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by wasapi View Post
Are you suggesting she is less then domesticated? I believe she would kill for certain foods, like cheese, bacon, turkey and pizza. Yes, you never want to try to take pizza away from her.
She is probably as domesticated as any dog can possibly be. No amount of domestication can overcome the primeval cheese response.
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Old 11th November 2019, 02:14 PM   #29
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Can the dog also evolve?
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