September 19, 2023
An uncanny canine has been crowned the “talking dog” of the Internet. California-based Copper is showing that humans may not be the only intelligent life in a household—although some worry that the motormouthed mutt might be too smart for her own good, reports the New York Post.
“I would say that Copper is extremely emotionally intelligent,” Tia Herrell, 52, a speech pathologist, told Jam Press of her three-year-old red fox Labrador retriever.
Herrell uses augmentative and alternative communication—an automated method that doesn’t involve speech—to communicate with Copper.
Similar high-tech devices are often employed by individuals with language or speech problems, with late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking being perhaps the most famous example.
Her owner explained that she read about a fellow speech pathologist using augmentative communication with her pet and decided to follow suit by building ordering recordable buttons and building a talking board.
“Copper started with buttons when she was four months old and it really helped her with potty training,” Herrell said. “She took to it very quickly and started using the buttons the first week.
“Since then, Copper has learned to use the buttons to request different toys, ask for a treat, tell how she’s feeling, tell someone if she’s worried, ask to go for a ride, ask where her human sister Savannah is and more.”
Herrell frequently shares her talking dog’s talents via her TikTok page, where she boasts a whopping 1.1 million followers.
Alarmed, Herrell asks the would-be Stephen Paw-king what’s amiss, to which her gum-flapping lab pushes a button that says “snake upstairs.”
Viewers were flabbergasted at her ability to communicate, with one fan writing, “This is amazing! How clever and beautiful is your dog.”
“How cool is that?!!!! Did it take a long time for your dog to learn that?” inquired another to which Herrell replied, “Not really but she only started with a few words and as she learned them I add more words.”
A third quipped, “A dog can know as many words as a 3yr old human … Idk about you but 3-year-olds are know-it-alls.”
Some worried that Copper was growing too smart, a la a furry AI robot. “It’s getting too intelligent,” warned one concerned netizen, evoking the idea of science fiction movies about humanity under the paws of dog overlords (overdogs?)
Herrell said that she’s been able to see her doggo’s character evolve through the discourse method, saying: “It’s been really fun and surprising to see Copper’s personality change over time.
The speech pathologist added, “She’s able to identify her own emotions and sometimes others’ emotions.”
However, others were less impressed and attributed the dog’s so-called “talking” to a case of extreme anthropomorphization.
“He just knows they make noise which gets your attention. There is no physical way a dog can put together a sentence,” scoffed one naysayer.
Experts believe that these rudimentary association interfaces make it hard to gauge canines’ actual depth of linguistic comprehension.
Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere, director of the Thinking Dog Center at Hunter College, told The Washington Post that she believes “our dogs have been ‘talking’ to us this whole time, but we just haven’t been ‘listening.
“The short videos I see online seem to indicate that dogs are able to form associations between a button press and an outcome, but it’s really difficult to say if anything more is happening,” she declared.
Scientists are currently developing ways of using artificial intelligence to decode the language of a menagerie of animals, from dolphins to crows.
Hopefully soon we’ll be able to determine whether we can see Spot pun or Lassie phone home.
Research contact: @nypost