Dogs are known for their strong sense of hearing. But what if your pet is deaf? Knowing how to communicate with deaf dogs can be challenging, but there’s a workaround that owners can do.
Deafness doesn’t make a canine less of a dog. With proper setup at home and guidance from experts, you can give your hearing-impaired canine the best quality of life possible.
All of these start by knowing more about your dog’s condition, what you need to change in your approach, and what alternatives you can try. Below, I outlined these specific topics to help pet owners who are raising a handicapped dog.
Why do dogs become deaf?
There are many possible reasons why canines become deaf. The culprit behind the hearing impairment will dictate if the condition is still treatable or not.
To give you an idea, here are the most common reasons why dogs suffer from hearing disabilities:
Canines with inborn deafness can’t be treated anymore. It’s because congenital deafness is in their DNA or their ears didn’t develop properly.
While 85 different dog breeds carry the risk of congenital deafness, those with piebald genes are more likely to suffer from it.
The piebald gene gives dogs unsymmetrical and predominantly white spots on its coat. This is a mutated gene that causes the absence of melanocytes on some spots of the dog’s body. It’s strongly tied to deafness and is also the same case with dogs bearing the merle gene.
As with humans, old age will lead to degenerative problems in the canine’s hearing. The symptoms are gradual and are usually irreversible.
Overall, pet owners consider this a normal part of a canine’s aging. In fact, you may not notice your aging dog losing its hearing right away. In most cases, gradual hearing loss may manifest in different ways like ignoring commands, sleeping for extended hours, failing to come when its name is called, and so on.
🐶Chronic ear infections
Dogs that are born healthy can still suffer from deafness at an early age. This can happen if your pet suffers from a chronic case of inner ear infection (otitis interna).
Long-term inflammation can permanently damage your dog’s eardrum. This is also the case with excessive accumulation of earwax.
Nevertheless, middle ear infections can still rupture your pet’s eardrum, so you should always have these problems treated as soon as you notice the symptoms.
Ear injuries due to a bad fall, being hit by a car, and the likes, can also make a dog deaf. It can or can’t be treated, depending on the severity of the condition.
The key here is bringing your dog to the vet for proper diagnosis. Take note that inner ear infections are hard to detect in their early phase since it occurs deep into your pet’s ear canal. By the time it shows obvious signs, it might have already caused serious damage.
🐶Exposure to extremely loud noise
Dogs have a heightened sense of hearing, so what humans perceive as loud is already damaging to the canine’s ears. From loud sirens, firecrackers, loud music, and so on, prolonged exposure can actually cause temporary or permanent deafness in dogs.
It’s important to keep your dog away from the sources of loud sounds. Other pet owners also use earmuffs for their dogs to reduce the canine’s exposure to deafening noise.
🐶Ear medication side effect
While extremely rare, deafness in dogs can also occur as a side effect of medications. This is often a temporary problem, but some canines may suffer from permanent hearing loss if the medication is given in high doses.
This ototoxicity is often observed in medications used to treat dogs with cancer and other serious health problem. Most of the time, your dog’s vet will advise of the possibility of this side effect. The good thing is that it rarely becomes a permanent issue.
How to communicate with deaf dogs
If your dog has a hearing impairment or is totally deaf, communicating can be a real challenge. The dog can no longer hear commands, which is the primary method for owners to train and bond with their pets.
Still, a deaf dog isn’t a lost cause. There are alternative means of communication that you can try, including the following:
✔️Utilize hand signals
As with hearing-impaired humans, deaf dogs can make use of hand signals. You only have to train the pooch to ensure that it understands and has an excellent recall of the signals you’re going to use.
For example, you can use an open palm to indicate stop or a finger pointing to the ground to indicate the sit command. It’s important to establish these hand signals early and make sure that you use them consistently during the course of training.
Overall, expect deaf dogs to take some time to recognize hand signals. Still, patience and lots of rewards will be a big help here. According to experts, a deaf dog can master up to 20 hand signals with proper training, which is a very encouraging fact.
If you’re not confident with your training skills, you can always enlist the help of a professional dog trainer.
✔️Use a flashlight
Another useful method of communicating with deaf dogs is using a flashlight. A mini flashlight can be used to get your pet’s attention and even provide commands. During training, you can also use the flashlight as a replacement for the clicker.
For example, if your dog remembers a hand signal properly, you can give a quick flicker on the flashlight before handing the treat. Make sure that the dog sees the light, so it will be established as a form of reward.
However, you should never flash the light right into your dog’s face. Always point the flashlight on the floor near your dog instead.
✔️Train your dog for rump taps
You can also utilize physical touch to communicate with your deaf dog. Rump taps or taps on your dog’s rear are effective in getting the canine’s attention.
You have to start slowly with this method, especially if you have a jumpy dog that gets startled easily. Also, you should only use gentle taps, especially if you have a small canine.
✔️Use floor stomps
While your dog can’t hear your footsteps, it can still feel the vibration on the floor. Floor stomps are a good way to announce your presence to your dog. This way, your pooch won’t be startled easily.
Overall, this method is very effective if you have wooden floors. You can use it to warn your dog that you’re around or as a way to get its attention.
✔️Use leash signaling
When walking your deaf dog outdoors, you can use the leash as means of communication. You can train your dog to recognize leash tugging. In this case, you should put your dog on a harness instead of a collar to avoid any potential injuries.
Also, leash tugs should be gentle just like the rump taps above. You should also keep your deaf dog’s leash short, so you can retrieve the pooch during emergencies.
Leash signals are effective in curbing pulling habits and in getting the attention of your hearing-impaired dog.
✔️Never startle a deaf dog
One of the struggles of communicating with a deaf dog is not startling them. It takes time for a hearing-impaired canine to get used to your methods, so you should always go slowly.
If you wish to wake a deaf dog or get its attention, you can pet it gently on the back or on the head. Doing this frequently will let your dog discern the touch of a family member over someone else.
You can also wake a sleeping deaf dog by putting food near its nose. This is very helpful for canines that get startled easily since you no longer have to touch them.
As much as possible, your dog should be aware of your presence before you touch him. This will prevent confusion or potential aggression on the part of your pet.
Additional advice when caring for deaf dogs
Caring for a deaf dog requires adjustments and changes at home. To make sure that you’re giving the pooch the best quality of life, you should keep these points in mind.
First of all, deaf dogs won’t hear honking cars, which makes them prone to accidents. So if you’re leaving your dog at home, you should ensure that it’s safe indoors.
In case you’re letting your deaf dog in the yard, you should always be around to supervise the pooch. Most of all, you should close your gates and ensure that your place is fenced up.
Also, it’s important to keep your entire family involved in the process. This way, your deaf dog will feel safe at home even if you’re not around.
Lastly, you should always keep your dog’s vet in the picture. The veterinarian can advise you on how to take care of your deaf dog based on its specific condition. Also, the vet can diagnose potential health problems that could be linked to your pet’s hearing problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can a deaf dog hear a whistle?
A: A deaf dog may or may not hear a whistle, depending on the extent of its hearing impairment. Canines that are totally deaf won’t hear a whistle. Still, there are other ways to communicate with your dog and get its attention. It’s just important to be patient and to help your dog learn how to communicate with you as well.
Q: Can deaf dogs be happy?
A: Just because a dog is deaf doesn’t mean it can’t be happy. With proper means of communication, a pet owner can raise a deaf yet happy canine. Besides, deaf dogs can still see and feel, which is crucial in their processing of emotions. Overall, deaf dogs can live a full life just like a hearing canine.
Q: Do deaf dogs make good pets?
A: Deaf dogs are amazing family pets. Even though they lack the sense of hearing, these canines will be loyal and affectionate household pets if raised well. The key here is teaching your dog to respond to various cues as alternative means of communication.
Q: Do deaf dogs sleep more?
A: Since they can’t be disturbed by ambient noises, deaf dogs tend to sleep longer and deeper. Overall, it shouldn’t be a cause of concern as long as your doggo has been cleared by the vet. Nevertheless, it’s still important to wake your dog, especially during the daytime, so it won’t stay awake when you’re in bed.
Q: Can a dog’s hearing be restored?
A: If your dog’s deafness is due to congenital defects, it’s no longer treatable. Nevertheless, hearing impairment due to injuries or diseases has a chance of being restored, depending on the severity. Overall, your dog’s veterinarian is the only person that can diagnose whether the canine’s hearing impairment can be reversed.
Knowing how to communicate with deaf dogs will help pet owners raise their handicapped canines better. While it’s challenging to care for a hearing-impaired dog, there’s always a way to bridge the gap.
Aside from the methods we discussed above, you shouldn’t hesitate to consult your dog’s veterinarian. You can also tap the help of a professional dog trainer to assist you with better training results.
Do you have a deaf dog? How are you communicating with the pooch? Share your tips below!