Deaf Dog Awareness Week
Sadly, there exists a misconception that deaf dogs and other special needs dogs do not bring as much joy to families as do hearing pets. Deaf Dog Awareness Week, which takes place during the last full week in September, gives pet parents and families the chance to learn that not only are deaf dogs as smart as those who do hear, but that they can just as quickly become a loving companion.
Besides being born with no hearing, dogs can become deaf for a number of reasons. Chronic ear infections, being exposed to loud noises, trauma and injuries, drug toxicity and old age are the most common reasons.
Early warning signs for pet parents to look out for if they suspect their dog is becoming hard of hearing include:
- doesn't hear their food being put into their bowl;
- doesn’t wake up unless they are touched; and
- doesn’t respond when their name is called.
All breeds of dogs can lose their hearing, but certain breeds are more susceptible, including Australian Shepherds, Boston Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Dalmatians, German Shepherds, Boxers, Jack Russell Terriers, Malteses, toy and miniature poodles, and West Highland White Terriers. Besides these breeds, white dogs in general are prone to deafness as a result of being born without pigments and hearing cells. Hearing cells and pigment-producing cells come from the same stem cells, so if a dog has no pigment, its chance of a lack of hearing cells, causing deafness, increases.
Deaf dogs are just as trainable and obedient as other dogs, and can learn hand commands and tricks, the only difference being that they will not have the same recall skills. One way to train a dog who is deaf is to use treats, because deaf dogs can’t hear when they are being praised. If treats are not readily available, the “jazz hands” signal will work, too. For more information on hand signals for deaf dogs, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuFEQA7bxOo
Safety tips for having a deaf dog in a household should include keeping the pet leashed when outside, and putting a tag on the pets collar indicating that the dog is deaf along with the owner’s contact information. For the dog’s well-being, make sure to inform acquaintances of the dog’s condition and teach them basic hand commands.
To learn how to adopt a deaf pet and where, interested pet parents can go to deafdogsrock.com and petfinder.org.