Caring for a Deaf Dog
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Caring for a deaf dog and giving it the best possible quality of life is no easy task, but it is not impossible. You should know that deafness is not a rare condition in dogs: you will not be alone in this situation, and you will find support in other dog lovers. Studies say that 1 in 5 dogs suffer from hearing loss, be it partial or total deafness. Dogs can compensate this lack by relying on their other senses, especially smell and sight.
Despite the prejudices, fears and limitations of having a deaf dog, if you learn to care for your dog properly you will enjoy a happy and loving companion like any other dog. In this AnimalWised article we'll go over what you need to know when caring for a deaf dog.
What causes deafness in dogs?
Loss of hearing in both ears is known as bilateral deafness and loss in just one ear is called unilateral deafness. As in humans, hearing loss in a dog can be caused by many factors:
- Congenital problems: puppies can be born deaf due to genetic, chemical or physical issues.
- Ear injuries.
- Gradual hearing loss due to old age.
- Reactions to medication.
- Exposure to sounds that are too loud for dogs who are already sensitive in their hearing.
Caring for a deaf dog's health and safety
The fact that the dog is deaf should not be a problem; it is perfectly able to have a normal life. Feeling sorry for a deaf dog does not help it stay healthy and happy. On the contrary, all dogs need regular schedules and someone to lay rules and train them regardless of their hearing abilities.
If your dog is deaf it will benefit from training that develops its smelling and tracking skills, as well as its visual and mental sharpness. This will help your dog feel safe and in charge of its environment, helping its emotional balance and confidence.
Regarding safety in outdoor spaces, many people wonder whether to keep their dog on a lead. The answer will depend on the level of training that the dog has, the relationship of trust it has with its owner, and the specific place.
If your deaf dog is not trained, it is better to always keep it with you. Completely deaf dogs cannot hear approaching vehicles or any other dangers, so for its own safety it is best if you are always close by. A good option for your dog to feel it has some degree of freedom and independence is to allow it to set the pace of the walk for a while: let it go only when you reach a safe, fenced area.
If you're in the process of training your dog, plan your outdoors time in intervals, alternating on and off-leash periods. Do not take it to large spaces where it may go too far, get lost and then not hear your voice calling it back. You must remain in its field of vision: at night, carry a lamp or flash light and accustom it to identifying you with that visual aid.
You should consider adding a tag to its collar that informs that the dog is deaf together with your contact information. In that case, if it gets lost, whoever finds it will deal with the situation more easily.
Training a deaf dog with sign language
It is always best to train dogs when they are still puppies; if they are deaf from a young age, they will get used to relying on their smell and sight much sooner, and they may not even realize they're different from other dogs. Usually, dog training relies on spoken orders like "sit" or "down". However, when training a deaf dog you will have to use body language and even sign language.
Remember that you have to create a positive environment for your dog to learn: you will have to inspire a feeling of safety and loyalty. Your goal is that your dog sees you as both a caretaker and a leader, so that when you go out it will feel calm and stay by your side while still being independent.
Most dogs can learn up to 20 different signs every year with the help of repetition and rewards, that is, through positive reinforcement. Use clear signals that are easy to recognize such as thumbs up or down to indicate emotions, or a palm at face level indicating that it must stop.
Do not approach your deaf dog from behind, because it could be frightened: always approach from the front so that it can see you at all times. When it is asleep and you want to wake it, pet it gently and put your hand on its nose so it can identify your scent.
Deaf dogs feel vibrations, so you can try to hit the ground (never aggressively) to give an indication. Another way is to use a vibrating collar, which usually has remote controls, to support training with body language. Use it as a signal to stop or as the sole indication of call: it will understand that when the collar vibrates it must approach you. Of course, this should not be confused with the use of electric shock collars, which are not appropriate.
If your dog is deaf, we recommend putting your heart and soul into its training. Your success will depend on your level of involvement and communication with your pet.
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This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to Caring for a Deaf Dog, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.