Meet Bunny – the famous ‘talking’ dog who blew up on TikTok, who uses sound-making buttons to speak to her owner, Alexis Devine.
Devine has posted several videos of Bunny ‘talking’ to her on TikTok, and it’s caught scientists’ attention… Scientists at the University of California, San Diego are now observing Bunny, alongside 1300 other dogs, to see if pets can express themselves in language-like ways under their TheyCanTalk study.
One video shows Bunny, after returning from a walk, pressing a button that sounds ‘mad’, then ‘ouch’, then ‘stranger’, and ‘paw’. Her owner tried to piece the information together and examined Bunny’s foot, to discover that she had an infection.
Devine shared, ‘Any time she’s able to tell me she’s in pain, specifically where she’s in pain, I’m totally gobsmacked. It’s incredible.’
A speech therapist, Christina Hunger, is behind this innovative way of pet communication. After being inspired by her speech therapy with toddlers, she wanted to see if dogs could also express themselves with words, ‘When I brought my new puppy Stella home, I realized she demonstrated many of the same pre-linguistic communication skills as toddlers do’.
So far, the lead cognitive scientist has described their discoveries as ‘exciting’ and that their expectations have been exceeded. Devine agreed to have Bunny monitored with numerous cameras in her living room, and was delivered a prototype, by a team at the University of California
The study is now 6 months in, and the scientists are taken aback. They shared, ‘once the dogs understand several buttons, they’re able to begin producing multi-button combinations. We’re already seeing six-button combinations, which is, to be perfectly honest, more than I expected.’
The team was also interested in the ‘clarity’ of the dogs’ communication. Rossano shared, ‘There are some dogs sharing their emotional view, whether they’re mad, happy, or in pain.’… ‘They have emotions, abilities, experiences, and a life that is worth acknowledging,’.
Devine also shared that this study has ‘really strengthened’ her and Bunny’s relationship, she said, ‘Bunny’s a miraculous little creature.’