Deaf dogs offer a unique opportunity for a pet parent to bond with their fur babies. Sadly, these dogs are often overlooked for no other reason than their loss of hearing. What most people don’t realize is that these dogs are just as capable as healthy dogs, and bring an abundance of love and personality into a home. Deaf Dog Awareness Week, which takes place every year in the last week of September, wants to show prospective pet parents that bringing a deaf dog into a home is not as difficult as it may seem and can be a rewarding and learning experience.
There are many reasons dogs may become deaf. They can be born without hearing, or can lose their hearing due to old age, chronic ear infections, being exposed to loud noises, trauma, injuries and drug toxicity. Early warning signs for pet parents to look out for if they think their dog is losing their hearing include if the dog doesn't hear their food being put in their bowl, doesn’t wake up unless they are touched and doesn’t respond when they hear their name called. To officially determine if a dog has lost their hearing and to what extent, they need to be taken to a vet who will then perform a BAER (Brainstorm Auditory Evoked Response). Just because deaf dogs can’t hear doesn’t mean that they don’t bark. They are more than able and willing to bark and whine at squirrels, birds or other animal who dare set foot on their lawns!
All breeds of dogs can lose their hearing, but certain breeds are still more susceptible, including Australian shepherds, Boston terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Dalmatians, German shepherds, Boxers, Jack Russell terriers, Malteses, toy and miniature poodles, and West Highland White terriers. White dogs are also more prone to deafness due to being born without pigment and hearing cells. Hearing cells and pigment producing cells come from the same stem cells, so if a dog has no pigment, the chances of its hearing cells causing deafness increases.
There are ways to keep a deaf pet safe that pet parents don’t have to do for pets that have their hearing. Since deaf dogs aren’t able to hear a car horn, they must always be leashed to keep them safe. As an extra measure, put a tag on the pets collar that mentions they are deaf, as well as contact information in case the pet gets away. Deaf dogs also can’t be blamed for reacting in a jumpy or anxious way if they have been spooked too many time. Luckily, there are easy ways to ease their anxiety by taking a few heavy steps so they can feel the vibration in the floor, approaching them from their field of vision or turning the lights on and off. If they are in a deep sleep and need to be woken up, pet parents can gently touch or pet them in the same spot, such as the shoulder. By giving a treat as a reward, the pet will learn that they will not be rudely awakened or startled.
Speaking of treats, deaf dogs are just as trainable and obedient as other dogs, and can learn hand commands and tricks, the only difference being they will not have the same recall skills. The best way to train a dog who is deaf is to use treats, because deaf dogs can’t hear when they are being praised. If treats are not readily available, the, “happy hands,” signal will work, too.
To learn how to adopt a deaf pet and where, interested pet parents can go to deafdogsrock.com and petfinder.org.