As you might already know, it’s National Deaf Dog Awareness week. Running from the 24th-30th Sept, it’s the perfect time to look at the ways we can improve and maintain the lives of our hearing impaired dogs.
Up to 30 breeds are susceptible to hearing loss
As Veterinarian Dr. Andrew Jones points out, up to 30 breeds of dog are known to be susceptible to hearing loss. These include Australian shepherds, Boston Terriers, Dalmatians, Jack Russells, and miniature poodles. Dogs can be partially or completely deaf. Some are deaf from birth (congenital deafness), while for others it’s an unfortunate part of the aging process. Either way, while owning a deaf dog certainly requires a slightly different approach, they can still live a practically normal existence.
As with any kind of dog, communication is key. It’s how we train them, how we interact with them on a daily basis. It’s a way of keeping them safe and maintaining a healthy and enjoyable relationship. Now, communicating with a deaf dog may seem like an uphill struggle, but don’t forget, our dogs are smart; they adapt quickly, So let’s look at some of the most effective methods of communicating with a deaf dog.
Ways to communicate with your deaf dog
Before you can do anything, you need to grab your dogs attention. Obviously calling their name is out of the question, but even some deaf dogs can still hear a high-pitched whistle. Alternatively, you can stamp on the floor, and there’s a good chance your dog will pick up on the vibrations. Flashlights are another good tool. Turn them on and off until your dog looks at you, and then reward them with a treat.
Once you’ve got them undivided attention, you can use hand signals and facial expressions in place of traditional voice commands. Dogs are really good at reading body language. In fact, they’re much better at reading what you say with your body than what you say with words. This is why many owners train their dogs using hand signals before using voice commands. But don’t worry about what signs to use. As the Deaf Dog Education Fund points out, there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ signs. Patience and consistency are the important things. And don’t forget to stay positive – dog’s feed off this kind energy, and it’s probably one of the best ways to keep them engaged.
Approaching a deaf dog
Deaf dogs are usually more sensitive; they can be easily startled, so it’s important we approach them in a slightly different way. This is especially important when they’re sleeping, and whenever we approach them from behind. If we get it wrong, they may snarl or snap. The trick is getting them comfortable with being touched unexpectedly. Practice touching them gently on the back and shoulders. Do this several times during the day, and reinforce the right kind of behaviours with affection and treats. After that, it won’t be long before your dog learns that being touched in this way isn’t a bad thing.
A deaf dog can still live a normal life
So as we can see, there are many effective ways of communicating with a hearing-impaired dog. Although, they are other factors we need to be mindful of (especially when taking them for walks), all it takes is a few minor adjustments and a little bit of patience. In other words, there’s no reason whatsoever why a deaf dog can’t be a happy dog.