Deaf Dogs Demystify - Are They Trainable and Are They Right For You?

When people think of dogs, an image of parched ears, wagging tails, and big smiles may come to mind. A less thought of image is a deaf dog and what a day in the life of those pooches and their pet parents might be like.

In Waggit’s eyes, they are every bit as special and intelligent as hearing dogs. Some may argue that dogs with hearing challenges are not as trainable; after all, voice commands are the backbone of even the most informal training program. With the addition of hand signals and other visual cues, deaf dogs can be trained just as well as those who can hear. Not to mention that a dog's capacity for unconditional love and bringing joy isn’t affected by whether they can hear or not. If they're treated with compassion and patience just as with hearing dogs, these pooches can become equally well-behaved and not to mention, loyal companions to individuals and families.

How Deaf Dogs Might Act

In many cases, if a dog is not deaf at birth, the process of their hearing loss is so gradual that it can be difficult for people to pinpoint exactly when it occurred. A dog who is deaf is not likely to be bothered by loud noises like thunderstorms, fireworks and the vacuum cleaner. The dog might not respond to his or her name and could startle suddenly if woken while they are sleeping. Being distressed while being left alone or walking around while trying to find familiar people are other signs.

Ways Dogs Become Deaf

Dogs and people share many of the same mechanisms when it comes to hearing. While a dog can be born deaf, there are a number of other reasons including an infection, a foreign body and/or pests in the ears. Noise trauma, old age, and exposure to some antibiotics or other medications are other ways that dogs can become deaf over their lifetimes.

Training a Deaf Dog

Just like training any other dog, patience, consistency and rewards are the foundation of any training program for a deaf dog. Using body language, auditory cues and hand signals are a good idea when training these tail-waggers. Devising simple hand signals, petting, and practicing with lots of food rewards can help a deaf dog learn the same commands as hearing dogs.

A good foundational hand signal to teach any dog is "watch." Start with a treat the dog likes and hold it near the dog's nose. The trainer should slowly move the food to their eye level while keeping eye contact with the dog and saying "watch."

Benefits of Owning a Deaf Dog

Dogs with compromised hearing often have the same level loyalty, love for life and their human companion as hearing dogs. A deaf dog can be even more special or beneficial to some individuals and families, such as children with disability or families with members who are recovering from a certain physical trauma.

A deaf dog could be a particularly good fit because he/she could provide a source of inspiration for children and adults who may need a positive example of overcoming challenges with a great attitude. Seeing a deaf dog wag its tail, enjoying wherever and whomever he/she is with, regardless of his/her hearing, can motivate their human companions to take on the same outlook and joyful mindset with their own lives and challenging situations. Because of that, owning a deaf dog can help develop a very special bond between human and canine.

Deaf dogs take only a bit of extra time and effort to train and accommodate, but the rewards for doing so are boundless. During this year’s National Deaf Dog Awareness week (September 24-30), celebrate or even consider adopting a happy, loyal and fulfilled deaf K9 companion who can provide inspiration, love, and comfort to people and children from all walks of life.