A Positive Take On Deaf Dogs

Which Ball to choose!

Which ball to choose!

With Bonfire Night fast approaching in the UK, I can't help but think how lucky I am to have a deaf dog that will be completely unfazed by the whole thing!

When I attempt to research about deaf animals, either for articles or for my own information, there are always numerous sources that only show the negative side of caring for a deaf dog. Much of the information out there will have you believe that deaf dogs can suddenly turn aggressive, they are extremely likely to get run over by a car, they cannot be let off lead, and they are UNTRAINABLE.

In fact, the Dalmatian Club of America states on their website that all deaf puppies should be humanely destroyed and any deaf puppies that have been placed in a home should be replaced with hearing dogs. Any first time deaf dog owner is going to be completely disheartened and overwhelmed if the first website they come across upon bringing their lovely deaf dog home has this type of negative information.

Instead, I think it is important to focus on what great pets these animals make. First, deaf dogs can certainly be trained, and it's no more difficult to train a deaf dog than it is to train a hearing one.

There are deaf dogs all over the world participating in activities such as obedience, agility, tracking, and herding. I live with a deaf dalmatian and we love to learn new tricks. He can learn things like playing dead, taking my socks off, and empty the washing machine. When you train

Logan walking in the field!

Logan walking in the field!

an animal, it's great to start by shaping/luring/capturing a behaviour and rewarding when the behaviour is displayed. It is not until the animal has a good understanding of what is being asked that you add the cue word. With a deaf dog, you just change that verbal cue to a hand signal. This hand signal can be the action you used to lure the behaviour in the first place, (for example, moving your arm in a circle for spin), or some people choose to use the same signs that are found in either British or American Sign Language.

It is also important to point out that deaf dogs can be let off lead in a safe, fully fenced area. Any dog, whether it be hearing or not, should be taught a reliable recall that the dog responds to even in a high-distraction environment. Many people with deaf animals choose to teach their dog to 'check in' in addition to teaching a recall cue. With the 'check in,' dogs are taught to regularly come back to their owners.

I have spoken to many people about their deaf dogs and not one has ever suggested that deaf dogs can suddenly turn aggressive. They are just normal dogs that can't hear. One of the ways you have to adapt when you have a deaf dog is ensuring you don't startle them, which includes not sneaking up behind them or disturbing them when they sleep.

There are many benefits to owning a deaf dog, including the fact that noises aren't a distraction to them! While deaf dogs can pick up on the vibrations in their environment, they simply don't have the sound sensitivities that can afflict hearing dogs.

I think it is important to eliminate the stigma surrounding deaf dogs. They make great pets, and I would encourage you to consider adopting a deaf dog the next time you're looking for a new addition.

For More Information:

Blog That Dog
The Deaf Dog Network
A Book with Dog Specific Handsignals


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Positively Expert: Jayde Davey

Jayde is a dog trainer-in-training trying to spread the word about positive reinforcement. She lives in the U.K. with her deaf Dalmatian Logan whilst studying and blogging.


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4 thoughts on “A Positive Take On Deaf Dogs

  1. Julie Torchio

    what articles are you reading? I could not find anything on deaf dogs but how to train them and how once humans have a deaf dog.. they decidedly only look to own deaf dogs.. Crazy... not certain where you researched.

  2. Susan Hackney Bradley

    I own a deaf Dogo mastiff that is trained with american sign language. Many of the signs I use is what makes sense to us such as going out side to potty I roll my hand over each other (like roll them up, roll them up and pitch them in the pan). Time to eat I rub my belly. He does hand tracking that I trained using treats and I can point if I want him to move such as thru a doorway or go into the house. You can buy books on working with deaf dogs and there is a deaf dog support group on the internet. He was puppy nipping and drawing blood so i got him down, put my arm in his mouth and when he bit down so did I but not enough to hurt him. He immediately got it. He touched my arm gently with his teeth and I used my lips to barely nibble on his ear. To wake him up, I tap the doggie bed with my foot, put a treat under his nose or reach out and pet him. You must learn to communicate in a different way than vocally which is going to vary from dog to dog and owner to owner. he is very visual and does not miss anything. I love him so and would not trade him for any reason.

  3. Victor Fowelin

    This is Shira. She is american bulldog/dalmatian mix, one year old right now. At the picture she is around 8 month. She is completly deaf. We've had the best time possible training and living with her. We didnt know she was deaf when we took her. In many ways, she is better behaived than most hearing dogs, she is more alert and she always wants eyecontact with us when she is walking outside.

    We never use a lead on her because she is so good in waiting for us, its only if we are playong with another dog and they are having a lots of fun running around that we need to have a lead for safety.

  4. Julie Torchio

    Front Street (Sacramento) a very sweet Deaf (Or severely hearing impaired dob
    Named Lydia needing a forever home that understands interacting in a
    world not reliant on sound. Three adopters have taken and returned
    her. (much of this is likely language barrier and the commitment to help her settle in to a foreverhome)

    The
    shelter is hoping for a dogless/catless home and / or someone who will
    spend the time to train and socialize her in her new home. http://fox40.com/2015/11/05/adopt-a-pet-lidiya/

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