Dogs, like people, can be born deaf or experience varying degrees of hearing loss during their lifetimes. While this means that they require (and depend on) certain special arrangements to be made on their behalf, a deaf dog does not necessarily suffer a diminished quality of life. In fact, they can not only live a normal day-to-day existence, but they have a lot of love to give, as well.
Dogs can simply be born deaf, in one or both ears. Typical breeds that are genetically susceptible to deafness include Dalmatians, Cocker Spaniels, Australian cattle dogs, English Setters, and Boston Terriers. Pigmentation can play a role in congenital deafness, as well. White-coated dogs and those with two different colored eyes are more prone.
They aren’t alone, though. Any animal born with the ability to hear can lose it as a result of traumatic injury, loud noises, infection, drug toxicity, tumors, and, of course, old age.
Connecting the Dots
A Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) Test records the electrical activity of a dog’s brain in response to sound and aids in the understanding of deafness. With diagnostics, we can also help to eliminate the risks of possible infections or masses in or around the ear canal.
Casual tests can be done at home if you notice that your dog isn’t responding to their name being called, food dropped in their bowl, or the doorbell ringing. If they do not react to the vacuum, banging on pots, jangling the keys, or opening treats, deafness may be the formal diagnosis.
Living With a Deaf Dog
While owners have to go a bit further to get the attention of a deaf dog, it’s still possible to train them. They are just as capable and intelligent as other dogs that can hear; they simply need additional time and patience. The good news is that their other senses are more sensitive. Hand signals offer visual cues to a deaf dog, and offer opportunities to silently communicate.
Safety and Aggression
There is a misconception that when dogs cannot hear what’s going on around them, they startle more easily and become aggressive. While any startled dog has the potential to bite, deaf dogs should be approached by everyone with calm, stable, and gentle touches.
Keeping a deaf dog safe from harm is manageable with the following tactics:
- Train them with positive reinforcement techniques and ensure they are properly socialized around other animals and people.
- Keep the ID game strong not only with a collar and tags, but with a vest or jacket that clearly reads “I’m Deaf”, so people are better equipped to handle their needs in the case of separation. Also, always be sure to update their microchip.
- Be there for your pet with the right hand signals for them to rely on. If they cannot see what’s happening, it’s not relevant to them. Guide them every step of the way.
Deaf Dog Awareness Week
The last week of September is National Deaf Dog Awareness Week. If you are celebrating your own deaf dog that week, you know how extra special these loyal companions are. Otherwise, there are adoption opportunities out there for people looking to share their lives with a deaf dog. We hope you’ll let us know if you have any questions or concerns.