Meet the French dog who is ‘learning to speak’ through a sound mat

A dog in France is learning to ‘speak’ with the help of his owner and a specially-created sound mat, and has mastered the meaning of 34 words so far.

Coco the border collie is nearly 12 months old, and is owned by Meiyun Xu, a doctoral student in language sciences at the university of Bourgogne in Dijon.

Ms Xu is working on her thesis on the language capacity of animals, and is training Coco as part of her work. He uses a mat created by Ms Xu to play the words, which include ‘happy’, ‘want’, ‘play’, and ‘go out’.

She told FranceInfo: “So far, he has learned 34 words, and the most-used are the basic ones, such as go out, eat, play, or cuddles.” Coco has also managed to associate four words in phrase order.

@hello_cocospeaking Does Coco understand the difference between “now” and “later”? Here are two tests from the same day. I will do another test later without talking, just with the buttons. #dog #chienmignon #puppy #bordercollie #foryou #dog #love #pourtoi #bouvier #colley #malinois #puppy #language #coco #love #going out #cute ♬ original sound – hello_cocospeaking

The scientist’s work adds to studies that have been done over the past few years, with the current consensus being that dogs can learn up to a thousand words when it comes to their toys, activities, desires or wishes, and emotions.

Ms Xu said: “They already have basic language capacity and know how to express themselves in their own way, but their ‘words’, meaning their actions, their expressions, remain very limited.”

The project is seeking to establish more details on dogs’ aptitude for language via the mat experiment, and in the meantime, Coco’s journey is being followed by more than 40,000 people on TikTok and more than 2,500 on Instagram.

@hello_cocospeaking He really understood what he’s saying right? #foryou #pourtoi #love #chien #bordercollie #coco #aime #dog #dogs #jeux #jouer #manger #fatique #ok ♬ original sound – hello_cocospeaking
@hello_cocospeaking He just got back from a long walk, but still begs to play outside Bordercollies more energetic than me! #coco #pourtoi #foryou ♬ original sound – hello_cocospeaking

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