More than eighty breeds of dogs are known to suffer from congenital deafness. Some dogs are only deaf in one ear, like my Australian Cattle Dog, and this doesn’t cause them any problems. The incidence of complete deafness in dogs varies from around 1% in the English Cocker Spaniel to 8% in the Dalmatian. A number of dogs develop deafness after chronic ear infections, trauma or other medical conditions. This means that there are many hearing-impaired dogs in our community and while they can live close to a normal life, they do need to be accommodated in some respects. Here are some suggestions that can make life with your special furry friend go smoothly.
- Keep your dog on a leash unless they are in a safe fenced area. They won’t be able to hear you calling them back, and won’t hear potential hazards such as an approaching car.
- Don’t skip training just because your dog is deaf. Their ears may not work but they still have a fully functioning brain. You will need to teach them with hand signals rather than verbal commands. When you reward them for good work, do so with a pat or treat because they won’t hear you say “good dog”.
- It can be a bit harder to get your dog’s attention if they can’t hear you but it can still be done. Use a laser beam or vibrating collar, both of which aren’t harmful, to signal to your dog, and then reward them for looking at you when they see or feel the signal.
- Take great care if you have visitors to your home because your dog won’t be able to hear them approaching. Make sure that your guests know about your dog’s special needs and ask them not to take Fido by surprise. If necessary, make your dog comfortable in another room until your visitors have left.
- Similarly, try to avoid startling your dog when they’re asleep. Some dogs get a fright and may be a bit snappy under these circumstances. Obviously, you can’t call your dog to let them know you’re coming, but if you make vibrations such as stomp on the floor, it can make them aware of your approach. I have heard of people holding a delicious smelling treat under their dog’s nose to rouse them. What a nice way to wake up.
- Keep an identification tag on their collar and make sure it mentions that they are deaf. If they are unfortunate enough to get lost, then a finder will know that they can’t hear and won’t expect them to respond to voice commands.
There’s no reason why your deaf dog can’t do just about anything any other dog can do. I’ve seen deaf dogs perform brilliantly in obedience and agility competitions, and they still make wonderful companions. However, it’s not a good idea to breed your dog if their deafness was congenital. It’s thought that most congenital deafness is hereditary so those unwelcome genes for deafness may be passed on to their puppies.
Hearing loss is a minor limitation and there are many websites and organizations that can help you along the journey with your pooch. Don’t let it prevent you both from enjoying life to the fullest.