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I Can’t HEAR You... Living with a Deaf Dog

deaf dog tags custom made selective hearing

I don’t come when you call my name.

I sleep through the alarm but never meal time.

I’m not afraid of the vacuum cleaner.

If I am asleep or not looking at you, I may jump if you touch me.

I may play more rough than other dogs.

I seldom take my eyes off you and follow you from room to room.

I like to lie in the doorway or with part of my body touching you.

I literally notice every spider on the wall.

These behaviors may seem odd but they are very understandable when the senses of sight, smell and touch replace the ability to hear. Thousands of dogs are killed every year simply because they do not hear. Countless others are given up to shelters or horribly abused because they are labeled dangerous, unpredictable or dumb.

Fortunately, there are also thousands of individuals who have been blessed by the companionship of these special dogs and are fighting to dispel the misconceptions that threaten their opportunity to live.

Often they had no idea their dog was deaf when they purchased it or adopted it from a shelter. Once they questioned some of these odd behaviors and realized their dog was deaf, it was too late to follow the advice many receive from vets and breeders to take the dog back and get another one. They had already fallen in love and simply asked the question, "Now What?"

"Your dog is DEAF???? Ohhhh poor thing……"

This is a common response from many people when they learn our dogs are deaf. However, our dogs give us no reason to feel sorry for them. They give us reason to look beyond a physical limitation and celebrate their zest for life and our relationships with them. They give us a reason to learn new ways to communicate. They give us reasons to laugh as we watch their antics, reasons to celebrate when we see them respond to a sign, when they are the best student in the class or when they are involved in competitive and non-competitive activities.

At the end of the day, when we are both worn out from games of tug-a-war, fetch or frisbee tossing, or just a leisurely walk through the neighborhood, they lie at our feet or beside us on the couch and give us a deep but soft gaze, acknowledging the special bond we have developed. We are truly lucky to share our lives with these special dogs.

Here are some extra tips and tricks

1. Clear concise communication. ASL handbooks can be helpful along with basic obedience hand signals. Be creative with your own. One hand sign seems to be most effective. Create a collective handbook of your signals so that others may communicate with your dog or if you are absent communication is not lost. By the age of 1 your deaf dog should know approximately 20 vocabulary words(signs) and continue to increase with age.

*tip always tap your dog in the same spot when you wanting her to communicate with you. Tapping her in the same spot one lets the dog know to watch you and secondly that you are needing to communicate. Consistency and repetition are key.

2. Use only positive Reinforcement for both training and disciplining the dog. Never use your hands to physically punish. Your hands are the only line of talking so don’t create a negative line of communication. Instead use “time out” in a crate or spare bedroom that is age appropriate.

*tip *young deaf dogs need a ton of redirection. Instead of always using the “no” hand signal you can re-direct them towards something they could do or have. For example, your dog starts chewing on something not intended for them. Show them a toy, give them their signal for “toy”, and when they take the toy reward with the “good job” signal. Always telling them no can be frustrating for deaf dogs so use no only when necessary.

3.Provided safety. If you cannot be home have safe place for your deaf dog. Kennels or crates are often good ideas for deaf dog, unless you have another dog. Deaf dogs often experience separation anxiety in different ways then their hearing counterparts which is normal just be aware. Make sure the backyard fence is secure. Be very vigilant if you take your deaf dog to off leash parks.

*hint- use a special collar that lets people know that your dog is deaf. Also, on the name tag it states “I’m Deaf”.

And also microchip your deaf dog.

4. Work on Startle Response. This is one of the biggest myths about deaf dogs is that they get scared easy then turn aggressive. Of coarse if deaf dog has not had much human contact or training this may be true. Give your dog massages, touch them everywhere. When they are sleeping wake them purposely NOT abruptly. Place your fingers in front of their nose and your scent will waken them. Some like to use vibrations to wake or by running your hand next to bedding they are sleeping on, eventually the feel the vibrations. Use positive touch whenever you can, if you feel your touching them a lot that’s good. Socialize your dog.

Hint: Don’t allow strangers to walk up behind your dog or “maul” your dog. Let unfamiliar people know the dog is deaf and approach softly and let your dog decide what kind of attention they desire.

5. Socialize! It is so important to show your deaf dog something new as often as possible. New places, new people, new smells, socialize with new dogs. Don’t force them into a situation that they are hesitant of but do provide new stimulus as much as possible.

Hint: let people know if they want to stop and say hi that your dog is deaf.

6. Include your deaf dog in the family. Of coarse if you adopt a deaf dog they are in your family but make them a part of the pack. With hearing dogs you take certain abilities for granted. For example, leaving the room. Always give your deaf dog a signal that you are leaving the room. Even if they are sleeping! There is nothing worse then a deaf dog waking up alone. Give your deaf dogs the same commands as your hearing dog. Time to eat, time to potty, time to play etc. Give them the confidence and allow them to feel included.

7. Be sensitive to things that may scare them. Remember they rely on their other senses and impairing that is very scary for deaf dogs.

8. Know your facts. Be able to separate the myths concerning deaf dogs. There are many reliable deaf dog websites out there with excellent tips

9. Be Vigilant in public. Dog parks can be great and horrible at the same time. Be very aware of dog behavior, read some good books on the subject. Do not allow dogs to gang up or play to rough with your deaf dog. Dogs can sense abnormalities and some dogs will try to dominate. If you notice a dog being dominant take your dog out of the situation immediately. If anyone has a problem with it explain to them your dog is deaf and cannot hear the verbal cues a hearing dog can. Don't even allow a dog to even growl at your deaf dog. Even if the owner says, “Oh, Bingo is just playing”.

10. Be ready to learn! Be ready to read and seek knowledge. .Know your limitations. If you are having a tough time training or breaking the communication gap get a trainer. Definitely share your stories through dog forums so that you meet others who can relate. More than that you will learn from each other. Knowledge is power, spread the word!

There is also 'selective" hearing.. a trick that Grigri excells in like the Dawg that he is...

but that's a conversation for another time ;)


a dog mom

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