Houston talking dog is taking TikTok by storm – Chron

Flambo, a four-and-a-half-year-old Australian Shepherd from Houston, is going viral for his TikToks communicating through buttons with his owner. 
Have you ever wished that your dog could talk to you at the push of a button? Well, there’s a dog named Flambo from Houston showing TikTok that it’s totally possible. The four-and-a-half-year-old Australian Shepherd and social media sensation uses buttons on a mat with various words to communicate with his owner Abba Adams. 
For example, in one such TikTok, Flambo tapped buttons that said “later water storm.” Adams asked,” Do you mean rain?” Flambo then shuffled to the other side of the mat and pressed the button for “rain.” Adams told Flambo she didn’t think a storm was coming but was later proven wrong when it rained the next day. That TikTok alone has garnered more than 3 million views on Flambo’s account where he has more than 1 million followers.
Adams, 28, has had Flambo for a little more than two years after adopting him at 18-months-old in Wimberly, Texas. He’s named for the vibrant Flamboyán tree most commonly known for its fiery red blooms seen throughout Puerto Rico, which Adams and Flambo’s breeder frequently visits. Each of his siblings in the litter were named after Puerto Rican themes. Adams first came up with the idea of Flambo using talking buttons during the COVID-19 pandemic through videos from speech-language pathologist Christina Hunger. 
“When COVID hit and we had lockdown, Flambo and I were both extremely bored. So in my attempts to try and keep us both sane, we were learning a new trick every day,” Adams said. “That’s when I found Christina Hunger, a famous speech pathologist, and she slowly developed this method with her dog Stella. The method is very similar to those used for nonverbal students of hers.”
Abba Adams, 28, has three dogs, including a 10-year-old Finnish Spitz named Espeon and four-and-a-half-year-old Australian Shepherd named Flambo. 
For Adams, it didn’t seem too far fetched to use the same method with her dogs, noting that the average pooch can learn up to 250 words. Other breeds, like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds can have a vocabulary of up to 1000 words, she added. So she bought a few of the talking buttons and a mat on Amazon and got started. “It kind of took of over our life,” she said. 
So far, Flambo’s learned 65 words, including, most recently “stranger,” “friend,” and the first name of Adams’ boyfriend Griffin Gundy. He learned his first four words, “outside,” “play,” “treats” and “ball,” in about a day and a half. Other more abstract words like “sleep” and “awake” took him about a month to learn. Ranking in the top 20 for the 2022 American Kennel Club Championship and winning first place in the 2022 Boricua Championship, Flambo makes learning look easy. However, Adams said teaching the words can be a long and tedious process. The hardest word for Flambo to learn was “is,” which took him about six months. 
Wanting to spread some cheer during a dark time, Adams took to TikTok to share clips of Flambo dancing, performing skits, and interacting with her other two dogs: Flambo’s 18-month-old son York (who knows four words) and a 10-year-old Finnish Spitz named Espeon (who actually communicates verbally via barks and grunts). But things really took off once Abba shared TikToks of Flambo using the talking buttons. The response has been overwhelming, she said. 
Flambo also has TikToks interacting with his owner’s other dog, a10-year-old Finnish Spitz named Espeon. 
“It’s been absolutely amazing to see how many people that he makes happy,” Adams said. “We get really sweet messages from people. One that I still remember was from a couple of years ago from a mom with a nonverbal son and she said he absolutely loved watching Flambo and seeing a dog like him who communicates like him and I just thought that was absolutely incredible.”
However, sometimes Flambo might talk a little too much. In one TikTok, Adams wrote that she and Flambo got into one of their first ever arguments after he took a decorative toy from a shelf. She told him the toy was “not for you” and pressed the button “no,” after which Flambo pressed “yes” and “play.” The two went back and forth in an experience Adams called “mind blowing.” 
Adams doesn’t plan on stopping the vocabulary lessons any time soon and is currently teaching Flambo how to form full sentences. He currently knows phrases like “Where is Espeon?” and “Want outside now.” Soon the talkative pup will be joining Adams and Gundy on their travels, which she plans to start documenting on flambothedog.com starting in January. “We travel a lot with the dogs so we want to do a travel blog and every place we go showcase all the dog-friendly places,” she said.
A lot of messages Adams receives in response to her TikToks come from pet owners seeking tips on how to teach their pets, which prompted her to post training videos on YouTube. Her biggest advice: “At the end of the day, it’s about being patient. Every dog is different. Make it fun. This is not a necessity, it’s a luxury. So don’t try to force your dog to do it. This is about building a bond to work as a team.”
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Ariana Garcia joined Chron in 2021. Previously, she was a community news and breaking news reporter for the Austin American-Statesman. She enjoys binge-watching anime and films makeup tutorials in her spare time. 


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