Living With a Deaf Dog
Did you ever watch your dog’s ears when she’s listening to something?
If her ears are long, she’ll perk them up, perhaps move them back and forth, or even tilt her head. If her ears are erect, one or both will swivel around on her head trying to focus in on sounds humans can’t even hear.
But some other dogs live in a world of silence. Dogs may lose some or all of their hearing as they age or due to an accident or illness. Puppies may be born deaf, and the likelihood increases with certain breeds: as many as 30% of Dalmatian puppies are born deaf in one or both ears.
Training and Caring for Deaf Dogs
These dogs are still quite trainable: you just need to use hand signals instead of verbal ones. You can use your own signals or ones from American Sign Language or other sign languages. One essential command every deaf dog should learn is “pay attention” or “look at me.” This should be something your dog can see from a distance. Once you have her attention, you can then give her the signal for the specific command you want her to follow.
But how can you get the attention of a deaf dog? Calling her name or using a clicker won’t work since she can’t hear them. If you’re in the house, stomping your foot may cause a vibration your dog can feel. After dark, turning on a light or using a flashlight can get her attention. You can also purchase a special collar that is made to lightly vibrate using a remote control. You can use that to get her attention, and then give her the specific command you want her to follow.
When you adopt a deaf dog, get her comfortable with your touch as soon as you bring her home. Always make sure she has seen you before you attempt to touch her. Touch her everywhere, including her tail, legs, and feet so she can get used to it. Deaf dogs startle very easily, and a startled dog is more inclined to bite or nip. If she’s asleep, wake her gently with a touch to her shoulders, an easy nudge with your foot, or just by putting your hand in front of her nose so she can wake to your scent. Be sure to warn your friends and children not to touch her when she’s sleeping or not looking at them as well.
As with other dogs, a deaf dog should have a bed, crate, or other safe place to escape to. Get a bell for her collar so you know when she’s on the move. Make sure to print her name tag with the announcement, “I’m deaf!” along with your contact information. You may also want to get a bandana or jacket that says “deaf” to alert others when you take her for walks.
Keep her on a leash at all times when she’s outside unless she’s in a fenced in yard. She can’t hear cars, rambunctious children, or other animals, and the resulting encounters can be disastrous.
What if my dog is deaf and blind?
If your dog is both deaf and blind, training will require even more time and patience on your part, but it isn’t impossible. A vibrating collar can be a great way to teach your dog some simple commands, though you may have to enlist a professional dog trainer to help.
There are a few extra things you can do to keep your deaf and blind dog safe. Use a baby gate to block off stairs. Make sure she always has a clear path to her safe place. Putting rugs down on her travel path with help her find her away around the house. You can also put air fresheners with different scents in each room so she can tell one room from another.
She should never be allowed outside without a leash, unless you have a small, well-secured yard and you can keep watch over her. When you take her for a walk, have her walk in front of you or beside you so you can keep an eye on her. You may find she’s easier to leash train since she’s can’t be distracted by what she sees or hears.
Deaf dogs, especially those who are blind as well, will depend heavily on you. Give a special needs dog a chance. The bond you form with her will be more profound and rewarding than you can imagine.