Communicating with a deaf dog
I thought it might help some of the humans out there to share some ideas on communicating with a deaf dog. As you know, Shadow’s hearing has been going for a while and now, most of the time seems to be non-existent. That can lead to all sorts of situations which Mum had not foreseen. We spend our lives responding to each other’s voices. We will bark to tell you things, you will speak to tell us things. It’s the main way we communicate. When one of our senses fails we have to rely on the remaining senses to do the work, but not everyone around us changes their behaviour to help.
Praising a deaf dog
One of the most important things is for Shadow to still know she has been a good girl. It becomes almost automatic to say ‘Good girl’ but you may have to start thinking about alternatives. It is not a bad idea for your dog to see your lips move in the same pattern as saying the words, while giving us a pat or a stroke to show you are pleased. If we can’t hear things the reassurance of touch becomes all the more important.
Use sign language
This is one to learn while we can still hear if possible. Be consistent so we know exactly what you mean. While you are training us when we can hear, have clear hand signals for important things such as ‘stay’, ‘wait’, ‘sit’, ‘lie down’ and ‘come’. If we have learnt the verbal command in tandem with the hand signal then if we lose our hearing it won’t mean we stop understanding what you want.
Walk on a lead
If we can’t hear, then unless we are somewhere totally enclosed and safe, always have us on a lead. It can be a long extending lead to give us some freedom, but remember we won’t hear you calling us to come back if we are off lead. Some breeds will do better at keeping an eye on you for commands than others, but actually the lead gives us a reassurance as well as helping to keep us safe. Shadow says that being deaf can be a bit scary and being able to know she is in close proximity to her human helps a lot.
Don’t get frustrated
The most important things is not to get frustrated when a deaf dog doesn’t hear or know what you want. It is not easy for them. They still want to please you. It is not deliberate. Be patient and make what you want clear. Give them lots and lots of love. Feeling your touch will mean the world to them.