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Recognize and Train a Dog Who Is Deaf

Through hand signals, a deaf dog can quickly learn obedience, agility, and other sports.

Causes of Deafness

Dogs become deaf for various reasons. Disease, injury, exposure to loud noise, certain medications, or the gradual decline of old age can cause deafness in dogs. Congenital deafness is due to genetics, and its victims are born deaf. However, people share excellent companionship with deaf dogs every day.

Living with a Deaf Dog

Deaf dogs are pretty adaptable. There is no reason that a deaf dog cannot have a quality life and make just as great a pet as a hearing dog. They learn to rely on other senses and are much more alert to subtle motion, light changes, vibrations, scent, and the pressure of air currents. Deaf puppies learn to follow and imitate littermates.

If you own a deaf dog or are thinking of adopting one, you should consider a few things.

  • Deaf dogs must be protected from dangers they do not hear, such as moving cars or aggressive animals. Staying on a leash or in a fenced yard when they are outside is essential for any dog but imperative for a deaf dog.
  • Hearing and deaf dogs may both learn. They can be trained in the same way, except that hand signals will be used in place of voice commands. A deaf dog will closely observe your facial expressions and body language. As long as you’re consistent, you can develop your signals or use adaptations from American Sign Language to teach deaf dogs obedience, agility, and other sports.
  • Deaf dogs may startle easier than hearing dogs and will benefit from desensitization to startling. It can be done by softly touching the hair of the unsuspecting dog until he notices you. Then smile and give him a favorite treat. If he is sleeping, you can place your hand near his nose so that your scent wakes him. Do these desensitizing exercises several times a day at first and then from time to time throughout his life. He will come to know that sudden appearances are nothing to be alarmed over.
  • A deaf dog will love your companionship. He will be distressed if you make sudden disappearances. If you need to leave the room and he is unaware, get his attention by stomping your feet so that he feels the vibrations or pat him as you go by. If you are outside, toss a stick in his direction or let him know in some way that you are leaving the area. Some suggest a vibrating collar, while others do not approve of the method.
  • A deaf dog should wear a tag at all times, stating that he is deaf and your contact information.

A deaf dog can learn to do all the things hearing dogs do with a creative and committed owner. One deaf dog owner said, “Deaf animals are no different from hearing animals, except they hear with their eyes.”