Living with a Deaf Dog with Jayde's top tips!
Deaf dogs make amazing pets, however, they are often overlooked due to a series of myths that surround them. A lot of the time people assume that they are unable to go off the lead, are prone to becoming aggressive and are completely untrainable: all of which is completely untrue.
There are even some breeders, trainers and organisations that recommend that all deaf dogs be put to sleep as they “cannot have a normal quality of life”
I share my home with two Deaf Dalmatians: a ten-year-old called Logan and an eighteen-month-old called Sherlock. The Dalmatian breed is particularly prone to deafness with between twenty to thirty per cent of them having some kind of hearing loss, whether that be deafness in both ears or in just one.
When researching deaf dogs ten years ago, most of the websites I came across showed deaf dogs in a very negative light. Unfortunately, even when researching them now, ten years on, there is still this stigma attached to them.
I’ve written for a variety of magazines and websites including Edition Dog Magazine and the Victoria Stilwells positively.com site with the intention of trying to prove how capable that deaf dogs can be. I have a YouTube channel and hold deaf dog consults via zoom to help people around the country with their deaf dogs. Combined both my deaf dogs have over 200,000 social media views on their videos, they can open cupboards, retrieve specific items, empty the washing machine, and even bark and growl on cue!
I’ve always considered my deaf dogs lives to be just as normal as any other dogs, possibly even better than a lot of pet dogs. Sherlock, for example, goes for daily off lead walks, has a variety of friends that he plays within the fields, has daily training sessions, has demonstrated in my classes, and is in the process of being taught both obedience and agility! He’s also making his way through a number of trick training levels too. When he’s not training, he curls up on the sofa next to me, usually under a blanket or tucking into the latest in the mountain of natural chews that I buy for him. He definitely does not have a poor quality of life.
Deaf dogs being untrainable is the most common myth that I hear I can’t count the number of times people stopped me to talk about my dog and called him untrainable because he’s a dalmatian and then practically wrote him off when I told them he was deaf too. People assume that because they can’t hear verbal cues or people speaking that they can’t be taught to do anything. In fact, it has been proved in numerous studies that dogs are sensitive to reading human body language signals such as pointing gestures, nodding or even glancing! You simply replace the verbal cue with a hand signal one instead. They can also absolutely be taught a recall and the ability to go off lead without the use of devices such as a vibration collar. A behaviour called a ‘check-in’ is taught which involves teaching the dog to regularly look back and provide you with eye contact when on a walk so that they can be called back if needed.
Here are some of Jayde the Deaf Dog Trainer's top tips: 1. Introduce a ‘Reward Marker’ to your deaf dog so they know then they have done something right: a good sign for this is a thumbs up! Show your dog your chosen hand signal and always follow that with a food reward. 2. Teach your deaf dog to ‘check in’ with you when you are out and about. To do this start by rewarding your dog with a piece of food at every set number of seconds, your dog will start to expect the treat and will regularly turn and look at you.
3. Even if you currently have a hearing dog, start to introduce hand signals for basic behaviours such as sit. Dogs can experience hearing loss as they get older so this sets them up for success in the future. 4. Touch your deaf dog on the same part of their body if you need to wake them up and follow this with a treat: this helps prevent them from becoming startled.
5. As well as hand signals you can teach your dog to respond to touches on parts of their body. For example, Logan will lie down if I hand signal, touch his shoulder or if I stomp my foot.
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