I can't hear you tell me you love me, but I feel the love you give.
Owning a deaf pet brings extra challenges. Deafness in animals is found in dogs, cats, lop-eared rabbits, ferrets, and even horses. Deaf humans and animals rely on senses other than hearing to get through the day and night.
Living with a deaf pet has many rewards including companionship for you and the pet, who can have a long happy life.
Light, vibration, and movement are what your deaf pet will respond to. Put a harness on with Deaf Dog patches on the side when walking with your deaf dog. Outside, always keep your deaf dog on a leash.
There is no difference if your pet was born deaf, had an illness that brought on deafness, had a drug reaction, or old age brought about his special need.
Puppies who are deaf may seem slow to learn and not respond to their names or pick up verbal commands. Older dogs with acquired deafness may sleep through your arrival at home.
Never surprise any pet, even if his hearing is perfect. If your deaf pet is sleeping and you want his attention, touch him gently on his shoulder or back. Use the same spot every time. A gentle touch from your hands will feel safe, but don't pat him on the head because this might be interpreted as threatening when trying to wake him up. Be gentle and very patient with your deaf pet. When training use lots of praise or treats with positive reinforcement. Smile when you are pleased with him. He can see you!
Common Causes of Hearing Loss
- Temporary deafness is often the result of a foreign object blockage (wax buildup, inner ear hairs, grass, other objects, fluids) to hearing loss. This type of deafness can be reversed with treatment.
- Certain dog breeds and coat colors carry a high degree of inherited deafness. A white head and white ears, or a merle coat, have been associated with deafness.
- Untreated or chronic ear infections (outer, middle, or inner ear bacterial or yeast infection) can cause deafness in a pet.
- If your pet is exposed to loud noises (gunfire, stereo equipment) this might cause your pet to lose his hearing.
- Any trauma that causes injury to the brain, ear canal, or eardrum can cause deafness.
- If your pet is exposed to heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, or lead this can be detrimental to the body and cause hearing problems.
- Drug toxicity if used incorrectly - or a side effect of medication might lead to deafness.
- Congenital birth defects in the nervous system might cause deafness.
- Gradual hearing loss due to aging is called natural geriatric nerve degeneration. Because it is gradual, it can be difficult to detect hearing loss.
Dogs have incredible senses and can easily compensate for their hearing loss by relying heavily on their other senses. Dogs experience life with their sense of smell first, then sight, then hearing. Also, deaf dogs have a better excuse for not listening than most dogs!
Deaf pets may no longer respond when you call them, have no reaction to sounds of squeaky toys, doorbells ringing, and other common noises. A deaf pet can have difficulty waking up and react aggressively when woken, be easily startled, and shake or tilt head often.
Deaf Pet Hand Signs
Most owners of deaf pets use hand signs and signals from the American Sign Language (ASL) or you can adapt your own hand language.
Because your deaf pet cannot hear your voice, use your hands and facial expressions for communication. Living and working with a deaf dog requires a shift from verbal to visual commands and rewards. A "thumbs up" mean as much as a "Good boy!" While a head shake and frown can mean "NO!"
Training First Step
You can begin to train your deaf dog with a gentle shoulder tap that means "look at me". When his head turns to look at you, put a treat into his mouth. Repeat often in different places, so the behavior becomes natural.
After a period of time, you can replace the treat with affection. Your dog will learn that when he looks at you after a gentle tap on his shoulder it means he will get a reward. Eventually, you'll be able to train your dog to obey hand signals by using this method.
How to Get Your Pet's Attention
- Use a flashlight to get attention through eyesight.
- Visual toys like glow-in-the-dark balls, toys that light up, and squeaky toys are fun for your deaf dog.
- Stomp on the floor with your foot to create vibration.
- Lightly tap on his backside to get his attention.
- Sharp hand claps at close range might provide enough vibration to alert your pet.
- Wave your arms in front of his face or body for airflow he might feel.
- Flip a light switch on and off inside, or turn the porch light on and off if he's outside.
- Slightly jiggle his leash to make him look at you when taking walks outside.
- Lightly blow on his back to get your pet to look at you.
Potty Training a Deaf Dog
First, you'll need to take your dog out frequently. Using a leash, take your dog outside and walk him around where you want him to go potty. Try to do this shortly after he has eaten or had a long drink of water.
After he urinates or defecates, give your dog a big smile and a thumbs up sign. Pat your dog on its back, and give a treat as a reward. If it's a fenced-in area, remove the leash and let your dog run free.
After you take your dog inside the house, go back to the area and clean up the feces, but leave a small amount so he'll know where to go potty again. Soon your pet will learn that is the place where he is supposed to eliminate. Try to create a hand signal that means "go potty". The ASL letter "T" is what dog trainers recommend for the word toilet.
Out and About With Your Deaf Pet
When purchasing a name tag for your deaf pet's collar include the information "DEAF" or "I'M DEAF" along with name and other information. If your pet is lost, whoever finds him will understand he has special needs.
Because a deaf dog cannot hear cars or other dangers approaching outside, never allow your deaf pet to roam freely outdoors, unless it is in a securely fenced-in yard. Check the fencing around your home to make sure that there are no escape hatches. Also, keep your front and back doors closed and locked.
Outdoors, take extra precautions to keep your dog safe from moving vehicles and other animals, because he will be less aware of things around him than other dogs.
Tell people you see on walks who want to pet your dog, that he is deaf, and to approach him from under his chin, palm up. It's a good idea to let your dog smell their hand first.
You can train your deaf dog to respond to a no-shock vibrating collar, which can be used to get your dog’s attention for safety when you are outdoors.