Tia, a speech-language pathologist, always had a strong passion for her profession. When she stumbled upon the story of Christina Hunger, another speech-language pathologist who taught her dog to communicate using buttons, Tia knew she had to try this with her puppy, Copper.

Today, Copper has a vocabulary of 75 words and is part of a research project at UC San Diego’s Comparative Cognition Lab, where researchers study whether dogs can really talk to us.


Copper’s communication system comprises 75 buttons, each representing an activity, feeling, or object. When Copper wants to express herself, she simply presses the appropriate button. Tia observed that Copper gravitates towards emotion buttons, such as sad, happy, worried, and I love you. She also enjoys pressing buttons related to things she loves, like going for a walk or playing outside.

One of Copper’s favorite people is her human sister, Savannah, who is 13 years old. When it’s time for Savannah to go to school, Copper looks at Tia with sad eyes, asking if she can accompany them on the ride. Copper’s ability to learn new words depends on the complexity of the concept. For example, it takes her longer to learn a feeling like mad than it does to learn about a favorite toy.


To teach Copper new words, Tia spends time modeling the words and using them out loud, especially when it comes to feelings. She demonstrates the emotion and encourages Copper to associate the button with that specific feeling. Tia’s ultimate goal for this communication system is to enable Copper to express herself in case of a medical need, such as pain in a specific part of her body.

Copper’s intuitive nature was highlighted when Tia was coughing in the kitchen, and Copper pressed the worried button. Tia asked Copper what she was worried about, and Copper pressed the ‘Mommy’ button. Tia never thought she would be able to communicate with her dog on such a deep level, and she finds it truly amazing.


Copper’s unique abilities caught the attention of researchers at UC San Diego’s Comparative Cognition Lab, where she is now part of the Augmentative Interspecies Communication Project in collaboration with TheyCanTalk.org. The project studies dogs like Copper to see if they can genuinely communicate with humans.

Tia feels an incredible bond with Copper and loves her like a daughter. The relationship they have built through this communication system is heartwarming and groundbreaking, as it provides valuable insights into the cognitive abilities of dogs.

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The post ‘World’s Craftiest Lab’ Can Express Over 75 Emotions, Activities, And Objects appeared first on iHeartDogs.com.

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