A deaf blue heelerIt wasn’t all the long ago that disabled dogs; deaf, blind, crippled, were routinely put down because it was thought they were too much trouble and they weren’t worth the extra work because they would never lead fulfilling or useful lives anyway. Thankfully times have changed and now there are many people; rescues and dedicated organizations, that specifically work with and care for ‘special needs’ dogs.

Deaf dogs are just like any other dog, just as smart, just a playful, just as loving and giving and loyal. The only difference is that they lack hearing. This does not make them deficient, it just means that you need to learn to communicate with them differently.

Dogs are notoriously more attuned to learning by visual signals then voice commands anyways and in a deaf dog this ability is even more attuned. Think of your dog, think of how he or she reacts to your actions. A dog will often cower at a raised hand if it has been hit before. A dog that has been raised around smiles will actually become more animated when he or she sees you smiling. This I know from my own experience as I have a ‘smiling dog’ who reacts to my smiles by returning the gesture.

Sure, a dog will respond to verbal commands but when coupled with hand gestures they are much more efficient. Many professional trainers employ hand signals over voice commands. I know that I use the combination; for ‘site’ I use the word and point down. Now all I have to do is point and it works just as effectively.

With a deaf dog you just need to learn to use non-verbal signals. The extra training in more on the human’s part then the dog’s. They get it! You just need to learn it!

Dogs are postural creatures, tuned into the world of body language. In training any dog, visual signals are more effective than voice commands. A voice command is an additional aid, not a mandatory requirement. People talk, dogs don’t. Though we all know this, we tend to forget the full implications of this statement. We place importance on our tone of voice and the words we use when speaking to our dogs. We seldom realize the additional messages communicated by our bodies, and the way those messages are interpreted by our dogs.

Dogs do not rely heavily on the spoken word. They use their bodies to communicate intent, dominance, submission, and a wide variety of emotions. True, they may growl, bark or whine, but these are an additional, or secondary, means of communication. A dog may bark while playing, or while chasing a cat over the fence. His body languages, and subsequent actions, are needed to interpret the true meaning of his bark. Our dogs are always “reading” us, and place a higher value on our body language than the words we speak. (DeafDogs.org)

Dog dogs are now in homes everywhere, not just ‘special’ homes where people are specifically trained to deal with deaf dogs. A deaf dog can fare just as well in any home that any other dog can as long as its people take a little extra time to learn its language. We always expect our pets to learn our language, why can’t we love them enough to learn theirs?

Check out this wonderful video.  Two dogs that many people would think of as ‘disabled.’ Tell me, do they look like they’re missing out on anything? 🙂

If you have a deaf dog, are considering adding one to your family and have questions, there are resources that you can turn to.  Here are just a few website dedicated to deaf dogs and animals.

  • Deaf Dogs Organization – this wonderful website provides FAQs, shatters many deaf dog myths and provides resources and much more.   A definite must!
  • Deaf Animal Row – this blog can be a tough one.  It highlight dogs and any deaf animal that is on ‘deathrow’ but it also tells wonderful ‘happy ending’ stories  and give much advise and infomation.
  • D2Care – Deaf Dog Connections, Advocacy, Resources & Education, Inc. (D2Care) is a membership-based organization, dedicated to promoting the health, welfare, and quality of life for deaf dogs through outreach, advocacy, education and support.
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