How to Help a Deaf Dog

There are many ways you can help your deaf dog.
There are many ways you can help your deaf dog. | Source

If you are looking for ways to help a deaf dog, you may already know how deaf dogs can make wonderful companions once you learn how to handle them. As a trainer, I have seen several deaf dogs bloom into wonderful companions; and just because they are deaf doesn't mean they can't excel in training and canine sports. One of my favorite past clients has excelled so much in basic and advanced training she is now competing with her deaf Parson Jack Russel in agility and he is winning many titles. Indeed, the sport of agility is marvelous for deaf dogs as there are so many visual cues they can rely on!

When people hear about deaf dogs, they often unconsciously compare them to deaf people. They often forget that dogs are blessed with other strong, superior senses that help them compensate their loss of hearing. Indeed, often owners are not even aware they are dealing with a deaf dog to start with. At times, the vet may confirm deafness after the owner reports unusual behavior changes or a sudden stubborn attitude that perhaps were never attributed to a loss of hearing or deafness.

Deafness in dogs may be present since birth or can be acquired. There are about 89 dog breeds that are predisposed top congenital (hereditary) deafness. Dalmatian puppies are notorious for being deaf from both ears. Other affected breeds include Australian Cattle Dogs, Parson Russell terriers, and whippets. Often, dogs with white heads can be affected. When deafness is acquired, chronic ear infections, injuries, drug toxicity, and old age may all be contributing factors.

Regardless of the cause, owning a deaf dog can bring loads of joy. If you are considering adopting a deaf dog, or if your dog was just diagnosed as hearing-impaired, you may find the tips and links in the next paragraphs quite helpful.

What Behavior Should I Expect in a Deaf Dog?

A deaf dog is unable to hear noises. This means that you'll need to be extra careful when you approach a deaf dog to prevent startling him. Imagine being deaf for a moment; you are in your home at night alone and then suddenly you hear a hand on your shoulder. You literally jump in the air, but feel comforted when you notice it was a loved one who has your keys and just came in your door. This is how the world may feel at times to a deaf dog. And dogs who startle can easily become defensive, which can mean a growl and even a bite.

To prevent startling your dog, make sure he sees you first before touching him. While dogs cannot hear, they can still hear vibrations through the floor. Stomping your feet on the floor may trigger your dog's orienting reflex causing him to turn his head your way. Another common method used by owners of deaf dogs includes shining a light nearby.

It doesn't hurt to condition your dog to associate your touch with something rewarding. This should over time reduce a startling response. When your dog sees you, get into the habit of touching him lightly on the shoulder to deliver a treat. Do this often enough until he automatically turns his head to receive a treat. Rep after rep this should become an almost reflexive response so that day you must wake him up or approach him, he should be less likely to startle.

Because small children are often unpredictable, move erratically and tend to wave their arms and run, deaf dogs may feel overwhelmed, and at times, the behavior of a boisterous child may be perceived as an attack, heightening the chances for defensive behavior to kick in. It's best to keep a deaf dog away from young children, or at a minimum, the child should be taught how to interact and follow important rules so to minimize stress.

Mingling with other dogs may also be problematic at times. Another dog may startle your dog, or your dog may not interpret play behavior correctly. A deaf dog may also fail to hear when another dog vocalizes from getting hurt if he's playing too rough, a circumstance that may lead to a squabble.

Many deaf dogs feel comforted if they are in company of another hearing dog. The deaf dog will learn to rely on cues from the hearing dog which can be very reassuring. You'll see the deaf dog look in the same direction of their pal and react accordingly. Often they'll lay down next to the hearing dog so they can react to their minimal movement. The same is often done with the owner; many deaf dogs will lay within the owner's feet so any movement can be detected. This gives them security and comfort.

Training a Deaf Dog

Because you cannot train using your voice, your deaf dog will have to rely on gestures. Your dog will look up at you and read your body language more than non-deaf dogs. You can easily train your dog with hand signals. One advantage of training a deaf dog is that they're not distracted by any noises.

Many deaf dog owners rely on specific signals to let their deaf dogs know they did a good job. The universal thumb's up can be used to replace "yes" or "good boy!" and a finger wag can be a good way to disapprove something or let the dog know of something he didn't do right.

Another advantage in training deaf dogs is that you can use luring to train basic commands such as sit, downs and stays. The best part is that unlike normal training for non-deaf dogs, you won't have to fade the hand gestures and replace them with verbal commands--something which non-deaf dogs at times struggle with.

Deaf dogs should always be walked on leash. They cannot hear incoming traffic and predict other dangers ahead. Also, should they get lost, you cannot call them as you would do with a non-deaf dog. If you take your dog out to potty in the yard, you can train him to come to you by flashing a light. Keeping a small bell on the collar is also helpful if you ever need to locate your deaf dog. And should he ever get lost, make sure you have a tag on his collar explaining to anybody who finds him that he is deaf.

It's unfortunate that deaf dogs are often underestimated. People believe they are difficult to train and cannot lead happy lives. Some breeders still destroy deaf puppies when they pop up in litters once in a blue moon and deaf dogs in shelters are often put to sleep because they are believed to be difficult to care for. Yet, many owners of deaf dogs report that their deaf dogs bond strongly to them and training them is very rewarding. The truth is, deaf dogs can lead wonderful lives, they can compete in doggy sports and some even become therapy dogs. They can virtually do the same exact things normal dogs do if you have the will to teach them.

Alexadry© All rights reserved, do not copy.


Life With Deaf Dogs: Amanda's Tips

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Comments 4 comments

epbooks profile image

epbooks 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Great advice! I had just written a hub on how I wish I had trained my aging dog sign language when her hearing was better, just so it would've been easier. I'm training her now, but I think it would've been better to speak and use sign at the same time.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

Epbooks, I will need to check your hub on sign language, I need to re-polish my skills as I will have a deaf dog coming soon to see me in the next days. I haven't worked with a deaf dog for some time! Thanks for stopping by!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

I read this hub with interest since my dog (nearing her ninth birthday) has acquired adult blindness. Some of the same misperceptions people have about deaf dogs also abound with blind ones. Of course, coping with a pet's sensory loss is still new to me, and I'm learning as I go along.

I noted what you wrote about touching a deaf dog. I speak to my dog in a soothing voice before I touch (and startle) her. There is much to be learned from your article. While I hope my dog will not also lose her hearing, I've read of dogs that lost both sight and auditory ability, so it is a possibility. If there's one thing the past year has taught me, it's to be prepared!

Voted Up++

Jaye


alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for your insightful comments JayeWisdom. When dogs undergo sensory loss, they also tend to become more clingy, and some may even develop separation anxiety as they age. This because they start relying on others more for guidance about their surroundings. Your girl is very lucky to have a dedicated owner like you. Thanks for the votes up.

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