Every other month, our pet expert and Canine Coaches dog trainer, Jill Bailey, will answer your pet questions. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Canine Coaches visit caninecoaches.com.
I recently had a friend’s family adopt a deaf dog, and she asked me why I have never written a column about dogs with special needs. Honestly, it’s because I don’t have a lot of knowledge in that area, but I felt it was time for a change. As a result, I’ve researched what causes deafness in dogs and how to work with deaf dogs because of my friend’s encouragement.
There are many things that can cause deafness in dogs, untreated and chronic ear infections, injury, old age, but in many cases it is hereditary, as many breeds are predisposed. As an owner or caregiver, discuss everything with your veterinarian to assure that you are treating any issue or problem you notice as soon as possible — the more information you can give your vet, the better they can treat it. If necessary, please seek the advice of a specialist.
Regardless of what caused your pup’s hearing loss, deaf dogs can live long and happy lives if you are prepared and willing to put in the time to work with the dog. A book that just came out this year on training deaf dogs is called, “Living with a Deaf Dog.”
Like humans, a deaf dog can sometimes increase the sensitivity of their other senses due to the loss of one. It’s important to keep in mind that a deaf dog will not be able to respond to any verbal cues; I believe in positive-reinforcement training, so dogs can still learn to respond to hand cues, which are just as effective as verbal cues. For example, I’ve taught my dog to sit just by holding my index finger up.
Remember that in training, we don’t start with the verbal cue but with the behavior: Once you are getting the desired behavior, you can add a visual cue just as easily as a verbal one. Also, you must keep them on a leash or in a fenced in area at all times. Although I would recommend this with any dog, you have to be more cognizant of this when working with a deaf dog.
If you are ready to devote time, energy and love, you are ready for a new dog, regardless of the special needs that pup may have — all dogs need training. These are incredible creatures, and I’m in awe at what I continue to learn about them. Consider adoption this holiday season and give a dog a forever home … you won’t regret it.
I wanted to be sure to remind everyone that at this time of the year, when decorations are going up and family is celebrating, your animals will be a big part of the festivities! Many aspects of our holiday celebrations are toxic to dogs: chocolate, poinsettia, mistletoe, holly, potpourri, etc. Be sure to keep wires and ornaments out of your animal’s reach. Follow the general rule that anything that isn’t your dogs’ food or treats – they should not have it.
Have a safe and happy holiday season!