Deaf dogs may join your life when you specifically adopt a puppy or an older dog. A deaf dog may be in your life when your dog ages and loses his or her hearing. When your dog loses one of his senses, such as hearing, how do you communicate with him? It is up to the dog parent to research and to learn how to communicate with a deaf dog to help ease the dog’s transition to a non-hearing life. 

A dog who is suddenly unable to hear may bark frantically, he or she may be more anxious, may lash out and snap or bite because he or she cannot listen to you coming and when you touch her she is startled. It is a big transition in the dog and the owner’s life. 

Christina Lee, the founder of Deaf Dogs Rock, said, “One of the reasons I think deaf dogs rock is because I love how much they love each other.” Christina lives with four deaf dogs and two hearing senior dogs, and she said they all adore one another. “The dogs watch each other’s body language and get cues all the time, and they play silly games.” 

Deaf Dogs Rock started when Christina found an abandoned deaf boxer pup she named Nitro. From its start in 2012, Deaf Dogs Rock, a non-profit charitable organization, has been committed to rescuing deaf dogs and finding them forever homes. “There have been hundreds of deaf dogs saved through the efforts of Deaf Dogs Rock,” she said. “Many deaf dogs are abandoned because the owner just doesn’t know how to communicate with the dog.”

How does one communicate with a deaf dog? 

Christina wrote on her site and shares, when you’re considering training for a deaf dog, they only promote positive reinforcement training. “You always want to allow the dog to make the right choice and support that choice with a marker, followed by a high-value reward.” She said that training a deaf dog is essentially the same as training a hearing dog, just that the pet parent has to use visual commands and markers rather than verbal commands.

When a family chooses to live with a deaf dog, they should find a trainer because, as Christina says, “the training classes are to train the dog owner to train the dog – you don’t need to find a ‘deaf dog’ trainer.” 

Hand signals are vital to communicating with a deaf dog. Whether a pet parent of a deaf dog teaches him- or herself hand signals to communicate with their deaf dog or if they reach out to Christina at Deaf Dogs Rock deaf dogs make ideal companions. 

Pet parents who share their lives with an aging dog may find they need to come up with new ways in which to communicate with their newly deaf dog. Saying his or her name won’t work any longer. A pet parent with a deaf dog will need to teach the dog to look at you; eye-to-eye contact is crucial in communicating with a deaf dog. The eye-to-eye connection is something that is taught to deaf dog owners whether they’ve gotten a deaf-from-birth dog or are living with a dog who is losing her hearing.

How do the dogs communicate with one another? 

Christina said, “When it’s mealtime if one deaf dog is awake and the others are sleeping, the deaf dog will race around the room and touch the other deaf dogs to wake them up and let them know it’s mealtime.” 

Bernard Lima-Chavez, another deaf dog owner and advocate, said, “It can be terrifying at first, especially if you’ve never met a deaf dog before.” Bernard helps remove the fear a potential deaf dog owner may have. 

He said a deaf dog owner needs to learn, at a minimum, these hand signs: 

  1. Watch me (this is the eye-to-eye contact that is crucial for communicating with a deaf dog) 
  2. Sit
  3. Stay
  4. Thumbs up (when the dog has done something great! A verbal “good dog” can’t be heard or appreciated, but a thumbs up or a loving pat shows the dog he’s done well)

“Velcro dogs”

The Deaf Dogs Rock community said their deaf dogs are “Velcro dogs.” She said, “These dogs stick to their humans like a second shadow, but they will also attach themselves to the other dogs in the family.” 

Christina does believe it takes a special person – one with a lot of patience and the willingness to learn with and live with a dog who cannot hear you when you call her name. A lack of hearing also poses a particular risk for the deaf dog if she ever escapes; this helps highlight again the need for hand signals to communicate with your deaf dog. 

“I have four deaf dog shadows who follow me around the house,” she said. “I can tell you without a doubt that I have given up all hopes of ever having any kind of privacy in my life, but I know I will never be lonely.” 

If you’re interested in learning more about deaf dogs, adopting one or more about the unique training they require, you can find out more on Deaf Dogs Rock on its resources page.

Note: The image of Nitro is credited to Christina Lee and Deaf Dogs Rock. 

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