5 Ways You Make Deaf Dog Parents Crazy

It’s Because of You that We Need to Drink

Life with a Deaf Dog

For some pretty obvious reasons, living with a deaf dog is different than living with a hearing dog. Communication is an important example. Humans instinctively depend on our voice to communicate but since our deaf dogs can’t hear us, we forge ahead and learn to use our hands to talk to them. There are also safety and other considerations, but in the grand scheme of things, these are minor adjustments that we must make in our daily lives. Different, yes. Difficult, no.

That said, there are a few WTF moments when sharing your life lived with a deaf dog that are the complete opposite of awesome, experiences that deaf dog pet parents bond and commiserate over, and the cold hard fact is that it is usually YOU- people who don’t live with deaf dogs- that drive us to drink.

You don’t mean it. We don’t hold it against you, or if we do, it is only momentary and we soon forgive you. Yes, we may laugh at you behind closed doors and an empty box of wine, but we don’t do it in a judgmental or mean-spirited way. Our anecdotes often begin with, “Bless her heart, she actually said..(insert some ridiculous statement about deaf dogs)” or “That dingbat believes that deaf dogs…(insert urban legend), bless his heart!”

So today, I’m sharing a few of these moments as a learning opportunity. My fellow deaf dog pet parents will probably nod in agreement. Perhaps they’ll even chime in with their own experiences in a comment below. Consider these the next time you meet a deaf dog. The liver of every deaf dog parent thanks you.

Deaf Dog Hand Signs

Please STOP trying to prove that our deaf dog can hear!

Seriously, stop it. There is no need to clap your hands, raise your voice, whistle a tune or stomp your feet. He’s deaf. I promise you that he cannot hear.

I have spent every day with him for the past three and a half years. If he could hear, I would be the first one to know. I also wouldn’t be flailing my arms around like a crazy person trying to get his attention from across the dog park.

When you clap your hands inches from his ears and he turns his head, it’s not because he heard you putting left palm to right, it’s because he felt the air swooshing against his ears, eyes and face and he wants to know what it is. If he turns to look when you stomp your feet on the floor, he is responding to vibrations on the floor, not the sound you made.

Please STOP pitying my deaf dog!

My deaf dog was born deaf. He doesn’t miss the sound of birds, trucks or his pack mates barking at the hot UPS guy- because he’s never heard these things. Ever. Dogs, like humans, can’t miss what they don't know.

He doesn’t feel different or weird, and he doesn’t need pity. He is not defective or broken in any way. He’s happy, healthy and knows dozens of hands signs. He knows love, the joy of car rides and he’s kinda famous in pet blogging circles. He is perfect just the way he is, the way nature made him.

For dogs who lose their hearing suddenly and unexpectedly, there is certainly a period of adjustment. In these rare circumstances, patience, support and training help these dogs adapt to a silent world. Give them time to adjust; they will be just fine.

Deaf dog training

Please STOP saying that deaf dogs are more aggressive!

I’m not sure how this rumor got started, but it’s just not true. In fact, studies prove the exact opposite.

Yes, deaf dogs, if not properly trained and socialized, can startle if touched from behind or while sleeping. But most dogs, given the choice, will choose flight over fight every time. Responsible deaf dog pet parents work on preventing or limiting startle responses. We do this not only to prevent a fear bite but also to instill a calm confidence in our dog. We want him to feel safe and comfortable in every situation. By teaching him that human touch is not to be feared, he is less likely to startle when touched unexpectedly.

Here are some scientific facts about deaf dogs and aggression that you should know.

Please STOP thinking deaf dogs are dumb!

By the time Edison was six-months old, he knew twenty different hand signs. Twenty! He now knows upwards of 40. Everything I say to him- every question, every instruction- is done with my hands. Are you hungry? Do you want water? Potty? Walk? Walk faster. Run! Car ride? Cookie? Sit! Lay down. Stay. Come here. Go there. Snuggle. Kiss. Drop it. Get down. Go play. No. Yes. Quit. Are you crazy? No bark! I love you! Go to bed. Good boy! And the list goes on.

Not only does he know all these and more, for many of these commands, he knows two different hand signs! I hate to make this a competition, but how many verbal commands does your hearing dog know?


How deaf dogs are different than hearing dogs

STOP thinking I’m special because I adopted a deaf dog!

When I met Edison, we had an instantaneous connection. We locked eyes and we both knew something magical had just happened. Anyone who has bonded with a dog knows this powerful feeling.

I didn’t do anything heroic by scooping him up in my arms and falling in love. I simply accepted him for who he was. I made adjustments to my life to meet his needs. I allowed him to challenge me to think differently, to communicate differently and to advocate differently. I did what anyone who has ever loved a dog does: I welcomed him into my heart and my home, without reservation, and I worked to meet his needs. Nothing more, nothing less.

Whether it is deafness, food allergies, behavioral issues, arthritis or any number of other medical conditions, we all make choices and adjustments to improve our dogs health and well-being. For some, it is administering daily medication. For others, it is paying special attention to the food we offer them. We all do this for our dogs in some way at some point in their life. For deaf dog pet parents, it is learning and teaching hand signs and paying extra attention to our dog’s unique safety needs.

Though I do appreciate the sentiment, I’m not special. I’m just a responsible pet parent who adores his dog beyond words. My dog just happens to be deaf.

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Positively Expert: Bernard Lima-Chavez

Bernard Lima-Chavez is a deaf dog pet parent, blogger, trainer and advocate who writes and works for deaf dogs, to raise awareness about their existence, needs and capabilities and to help them live rich, full, happy lives.


5 thoughts on “5 Ways You Make Deaf Dog Parents Crazy

  1. Lindsay Pevny

    I've never met a deaf dog, I can't believe people try to make noises to try to prove he can hear! I'm deaf in one ear and I've had people scream into it for the same reason - SO rude! Anyways, I still think it's pretty special that you're Edison's papa.

  2. Jenny H

    I have a 'legally deaf' dog now, (16 years old, and 'legally blind', too -- age related problems).
    But the poor fellow does find life rather baffling, 🙁 Though I think h
    e worries more about is poor eyesight and arthritis.

  3. Kim Lodewijks

    Wonderful blog. I already have been thinking about adopting a deaf dog a few times especially because the breed I like (Dalmatian) is known for having a bigger disposition to having deaf pups than most other breeds and because deaf pups often still get euthanised. I would love to give one (or more) of these pups a good home in the future, because like you I believe that, apart from some special needs, they are just dogs. I already use hand signals with my hearing dog (dogs generally respond better to hand signals than voice cues), but I would like to read some more on how to prepare and help a deaf dog to not get startled and how a recall is done (apart from swaying your arms). Can you point me in the direction of some good information?

  4. Morgan Griffith

    I have a blind dog. I laughed while reading this as I get so many "different" comments also. And I do agree with your stating that I am not a hero for adopting a blind dog. I simply saw his picture and knew that was the dog for me. And he is. People don't stop to think that a special dog is, first and foremost, a dog. They all act just like any other dog. Meissen's disability is really only about 1% of his life. In fact, if I don't tell people he is blind they usually don't even know.

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