By Katie Shannon
Caring for a dog with the loss of one of the major senses can be a huge task to tackle. Often requiring more care and attention of a special home, these dogs can be hard to place. Not everyone is up to the challenge of dealing with a deaf dog. Certain breeds are predisposed to deafness, with an estimated 10-30% of Dalmatians being affected. Dogs with white coats and blue eyes are also more at risk. While life may be a challenge, it is not impossible. Here are some tips to help.
1. Consider getting another dog: A hearing-aid-dog for your dog? Why not?! Dogs can form amazing bonds, and many fully able-bodied dogs are happy to pick up the slack for their less fortunate counterparts.
2. Touch: Your dog is going to need to lean on you for support a little more than a “normal” dog. Keeping constant contact while on walks can be comforting. Try a relaxed heel position, that keeps the dog’s shoulder in close proximity to your leg so they always know you are there, even if just slightly out of sight.
3. Use food rewards: Nothing says “good job” like a yummy treat. No mixed signals there!
4. Protect your dog: All too often people take advantage of a dog’s good nature, and push them past their comfort limits. To avoid an unfortunate event from taking place, do not allow people in public to pet your dog, unless under your direction and supervision. Your dog may be well accustomed to you touching it, but a child running up and patting their bum announced should be a big no-no.
6. Keep them on a leash: Do not take safety for granted. Protect them by keeping them safe, and close to you at all times when exploring our big world.
5. Use lights to guide them: You let your dog out in your safely fenced yard for a potty break at night. You cannot call them back inside. Use a flash light and turn it on, and off a few times, to alert the dog’s attention to you as a way to lure them back inside. Alternatively, you could flash the porch light on and off.
7. Use your scent: For instances where the dog is sleeping and you need to rouse them, do not grab them to wake them. This, of course, could have a bad outcome. Instead, simply place your hand in front of their nose. The dog will become aware of your concentrated scent and know you are near. Making a habit of getting your dog used to this as a way to wake them can be a gentle, stress free, and safer way than the alternative.
8. Desensitize to touch: One of the biggest concerns with having a deaf dog is the element of surprise. You do not want to startle a deaf dog. Getting your dog used to touch through desensitization, with positive association, is a good thing to practice on the regular. When your dog is relaxed, touch them, then immediately follow with a treat. Rather than the dog having a bad reaction, they are building the association is touch=treat.
9. Alert: You can alert the dog to your presence if they haven’t taken notice yet by tapping your foot on the floor as you enter a room. They may not be able to hear it, but they will feel the vibrations and look around.
10. Learn Sign Language: Communication is the key to a great relationship with any dog. It may be fairly common knowledge that a dog with hearing impairments will need to be taught to hand signals, but why not take that a step further and explore sign language. Your dog is capable of learning hundreds of words; they can pick up sign just as well. Dogs are masters at body language after all. You could ask your dog if they would like to go to the park, outside, or who is at the door; or have a whole conversation, instead of just asking them plain old “sit” or “down”. If you are up for the challenge, this is an excellent link to a helpful video to show you the possibilities are endless. https://deafdogsrock.com/beginning-sign-training