By Chris Pitts, RVT, of Broadway Animal Hospital.
There is a funny trait of many owners of deaf dogs. They tell me, as I talk kindly to their deaf dog, “My dog can't hear you,” and then they look really irritated when I continue to prattle along lovingly to their dog as I take him into the treatment room. Here's the deal. Deaf dogs may not be able to hear me, but most of them can still see me. They respond really well to body language. They can respond when I give them a pat. And those noses definitely work when I offer a cookie. So here's my top four tips for a happier deaf dog.
- Keep interacting with your dog and encourage communication with your dog. If your dog is merely deaf, teach him sign language. A palm for stay, a point to the buns for sit, and showing your dog a leash to signal him to go for a walk are all ways of interacting with your dog that you can show to other people, like a dog -sitter or family members. You will be less frustrated, and so will your dog when it comes time for him to have to follow some commands.
- Let your dog know you are there. No one likes being sneaked up on. Walking a little heavier as you approach your dog can help alert him to your presence. Avoid just coming up to him and touching him on the shoulder. He has no warning you are there and it can be quite jolting.
- Keep your dog on leash. He may have poor recall if he can't see you and can't respond to the new "come here" sign you have taught him. And you aren't very likely to take your dog out on cool hikes if you tend to lose him. So keep him attached, and get out and enjoy the trails. He will love the exercise and the outings and so will you.
- Do tell others that your dog cannot hear and to be careful not to sneak up on him. Be the loving advocate your deaf dog needs, pull out a few treats and show off those new hand signals. Your dog will love the treats, and your friends will learn an appropriate way to interact with your dog that does not include not talking to him.