We are not sure what caused Jesse, our Yellow Labrador, to go deaf and the vet is unsure also. The good news is she is very good at sign language, as long as she is looking at us, she will listen! We use hand signals and when I want to talk to her, I put my face to hers so she can feel the vibrations.
Facts about deaf dogs…
I was reading WebMD for pets and was surprised to read that dogs with fair colored heads or white have a higher chance for congenital deafness. I found that interesting. It said because of the lack of pigmentation on the head it causes the pigment cells in the ear to be lacking or fail to develop. That then causes the death of nerve cells that are needed to develop for hearing. Besides congenital deafness it could be due to old age, injury or repeated ear infections.
Facts are that the dog owner is usually more upset than the dogs when they become deaf. I feel like Jesse probably enjoys it at times, like while the kids run around screaming and the dogs are all barking, she lays there sleeping in peace.
Can you train a deaf dog?
It is still easy to train a deaf dog. You just use hand signals instead of your voice or a whistle. The only hard part is they have to be looking at you. When Jesse is running down our trail in front of me, hand signals don’t help. Deaf dogs also can’t hear cars coming, so it’s important to keep her on a leash when we are by the road.
AKC training tips state that using a collar that vibrates can be helpful. This makes perfect sense for when they are off the leash. They also state that positive rewards are important while also having a hand signal for good behavior, such as a thumbs up. That way they know when they did good because they can’t hear you say “good girl”. We put our hands together and pet Jesse when she follows our hand signals.
A good way not to startle your deaf dog while they are sleeping is to put your hand in front of their nose and then pet them gently. We stomp on the floor from further away to wake Jesse if needed without startling her. Sometimes the littlest vibration can wake her and other times she sleeps right through the chaos.
Keep your deaf dog safe.
In my recent blog I rated the top 3 invisible fences; this might be a good option for a deaf dog also because of the vibration. The last thing you want is for your deaf dog to be roaming the streets not being able to hear you call or hear cars. If you don’t have a way to keep them safe, such as a physical fence, I would recommend this option.
Overall deaf dogs can still have a normal wonderful life. If you start to notice signs, obviously see your vet; but there’s also a lot of information out there to help! It is a rewarding experience to have a deaf dog! It’s so important for people to know because some have euthanized puppies born deaf or thought they had to put dog down because they went deaf and that is is very unfair and unnecessary. There is nothing wrong with them, they just can’t hear!
Resources: WebMD for Pets and AKC
The Dog Connection~Holli
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