To our readers who are learning about deaf dogs, we want to start out by saying: Do NOT Pity Deaf Dogs. They are NOT in pain. The are NOT brain damaged. They are NOT unhappy. Deaf Dogs are intelligent and lovable, and in our opinion, easier to train than a hearing ACD.
Thousands of deaf dogs are needlessly euthanized each year simply because they can’t hear, and a dog that can’t hear can be a tough sale at a rescue or shelter. Most people in the market to adopt a dog don’t realize that deaf dogs are completely trainable, and many people believe the host of myths that surround deaf dogs.
Contrary to urban legend, deaf dogs aren’t more easily startled and aggressive, they can socialize easily with children, they aren’t more likely to be hit by cars, they don’t need a “hearing dog,” and they’re not difficult to train.
A deaf dog does not mean an unsocial one. Believe it or not, dogs “talk” to each other primarily through body language–sniffing, facial expression, and posturing. Training methods for teaching a deaf dog are different than those for dogs that can hear, but much of the process is the same. Here are some tips courtesy of the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund:
1. Purchase an American Sign Language pocketbook. It will open up a world of words for you and your dog. Your deaf dog is going to surprise you. All that’s happening is that she is learning signs (and facial expressions) instead of words. The first word signs you should concentrate on are sit, down, stay, come, no and stop.
2. Keep your dog on a leash when walking. The leash, and a fenced yard or stake and lead are necessities with the deaf dog. Buy a dog tag stating, “(dog’s name) is Deaf. Please hold and call (your name/phone)”.
3. Put a bell on your dog. Hunting dog bells are good, but if you think too bulky, use one of those loud Christmas bells women wear as necklaces during the holidays. This allows you to hear your dog when he is on the move. Good luck when he falls asleep somewhere out of the way and you can’t find him.
4. To get your dog’s attention, thump on the floor with your fist or foot or wave. Some people use a flashlight or a laser light. If your dog is outside at night and you want to call him in, turn your porch light off and on.
For the complete list of tips visit the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund.
PERSISTENCE, PERSISTENCE, PERSISTENCE!!! Training a dog can be frustrating but it is even harder when your dog can’t hear the commands. The main thing is to figure out what works for you and your dog. You aren’t asking them to steal second base but simple, direct commands are easier for you and the deaf dog. A bell attached to the door is very convenient, as a way to get our attention. Reward constantly. I have dog treats everywhere! Most deaf dogs like a gentle touch as a reward. Make sure it is gentle, as they also are sensitive to touch, and therefore can perceive a “pat” as a “hit”. Catch them doing something good, and rewarding it, is easier than trying to “force” a command on them. (This goes for hearing dogs too.) For instance, if you force then to SIT, all they perceive is being forced by touch.
IMPORTANT! When waking a deaf dog, do it by always touching him/her GENTLY in the same place. Shoulder is the best. Or put your hand in front of his nose and let your smell wake him. Give him a treat and/or lots of love every time you wake him. Startling the deaf dog out of sleep is usually the touchiest area. The treat will make waking up less traumatic and he will take eager instead of angry. Tell visitors not to touch your dog if he is sleeping, especially children.
LOVE LOVE LOVE. Just because your deaf dog can’t hear doesn’t mean that they love any less or any differently than a dog that can hear. Teach focus / eye contact first. You would be surprised how much the dog respond to our facial expressions and body language. I DO NOT suggest laying a deaf dog on their side for discipline. A finger shake, a frown, hands on hips, foot stomp, and exaggerated body language are going to be better choice(s).
LEARN TO WALK AWAY. When you are frustrated with the dog, walk away. Training is difficult and I am not going to tell you any differently. It takes time and patience like with any dog but they need more because they simply can’t hear you.
What Causes Deafness in Dogs?
What causes a dog to lose its hearing? A lot of the same things that cause hearing loss in humans. Genetic defects can cause a dog to be born deaf, this is known as congenital deafness. A dog can also lose its hearing due to an ear infection, injury to the ear, or may experience gradual hearing loss due to old age. Exposure to loud noise can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, as can certain drugs.
The most common cause of congenital deafness (in ACD’s) is pigment related. (There is some talk about a recessive gene as well, but nothing definite). Some dogs have white coats, but still have pigmented skin (Samoyeds, West Highland Terriers, and White German Shepherds fall into this category). Although they have white fur, they have black noses and eye rims (their fur is actually not pure white, but a very light buff color). Other dogs normally have colored coats, and white trim (this includes Dalmatians, the white is actually not their real coat color, the “spots” are). The “trim” comes from areas of un-pigmented (pink) skin, which produces white hair. If there is un-pigmented skin in the inner ear, the nerve endings atrophy and die off in the first few weeks of the puppy’s life, resulting in deafness. Please note that you cannot tell the color of hairs in the inner ear by looking at the visible color of the dog’s ears. Although many dogs with white ears will be deaf, many deaf dogs have colored ears as well.
Hearing loss affecting both ears equally is called Bilateral Deafness. A bilaterally deaf dog is completely deaf, or deaf in both ears. Hearing loss occurring on, or affecting only one ear, is called Unilateral Deafness. A unilaterally deaf dog is partially deaf (deaf in only one ear) and has some degree of hearing in the other ear.