HOUSTON - Almost every pet parent has looked at their fur baby and wondered if they could actually understand or talk to us…right?!
Well, a Houston family has taken social media by storm with their dog, Flambo, who through the push of various buttons, is able to communicate effectively with his parents.
In one of the videos, for example, Flambo hits a button on a board that is designated to play a specific word, that says "play." From there, his mother, Abba, asks the Australian Shepard, "play what?" and then runs over to the other side to tap the button that says "outside."
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That video alone has amassed more than 2,000 likes on Instagram, where they have 203,000 total followers. On TikTok though, their page has more than 1 million followers. How does it all happen? It's not as easy as Flambo makes it seem.
"It is a very long and tedious process," Abba, Flambo's mother explained. "Each word takes a different amount of time, but kind of the same concept of when you teach a dog to lay down, they know that lay down means to lay down, so what you're doing is teaching them the meaning of each word for abstract words is a little bit different because you're teaching them the placement of the word versus meaning."
For a little more than two years, Abba has had Flambo, and while she admits they have a strong bond, there was a brief period where her previous owner did not want to let the pup go.
"I was actually looking for a new service dog prospect," she said. "I had known the breeder for about now 15 years, and I knew that her dogs had the temperament that I wanted, and when I went to pick out a dog they told me that there's no way that I would ever have Flambo, I think her exact words were, ‘over my dead body.'"
This was simply because Flambo was just too precious of a dog to let go, but there was no denying he and Abba were a perfect match.
"She loved him," Abba continued. "He wasn't for sale or anything, but we bonded and it was very evident that we kind of bonded to each other."
If you need proof for yourself, take a look at a tear-jerking video that's gotten nearly 1,800 likes on TikTok of Flambo telling Abba exactly how he feels.
"She developed this method from how she helps nonvocal kids communicate, and she did it with her dog Stella; it was absolutely incredible," Abba explained. "I took what I could tell from the video and I used my mom, who is a dog trainer to kind of help me figure out how to teach each individual word."
"Obviously words like play outside are very easy, but for the more abstract words, I had my mom's help," she continued.
Currently, Flambo knows up to 40 words but arguably the most challenging was the word "is."
"That took about six months for him to finally start using it correctly,"Abba said. "So it's a very interesting process, and it's very cool to see how they pick up different words versus others…so he can say like, ‘where is ball?’"
As mentioned earlier, the tediousness behind the lessons would require a lot of patience and time. Luckily for Abba, who adopted Flambo during the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her partner Griffin had all the time in the world.
"We started during COVID; we were very bored," Abba admitted. "But I grew up working at my mom's kennel…so I've kind of devoted my entire life to dogs, and so when COVID hit, we were both mentally very bored. And so we decided to take that time to do something useful and creative with it."
"I grew up with two cats and never owned a dog until I was about 23," Griffin added. "And so I have Abba to thank for introducing him into my life, but she's the brains behind the operation, and I'm there to hold the leashes."
Speaking of leashes, Abba shared that looking ahead, Flambo will continuously be on the move, not only showing off his floof but his admirable skills.
"A lot more travel, and I'm trying to come up with a more condensed size board to teach while we travel," she concluded. "Next year he's going to be going to Mexico, Canada, and Europe to compete and dog shows and really just making more memories and hopefully helping to change the world for dogs everywhere."