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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