Deafness in dogs can occur for a variety of reasons outside of traditional ageing. Younger dogs can experience deafness from health issues or even genetics.
It can be scary seeing your furry family member lose their hearing. It's heartbreaking to think they won't be able to enjoy all the rhetorical Want to go for a walk? questions you drop daily. And a lack of hearing can make discipline and teaching new tricks a whole lot tougher, too. Caring for a deaf dog definitely requires some adjustments in your approach to training and communication. Adapting the way you love and care for your dog can help them live a long, happy life even if they can't hear all about it.
Here are some of our top tips for taking care of your deaf dog.
Learn hand signals. Don't give up on communicating with your pet just because they can't hear you. It's easier than you think to learn and start using hand signals. Start with the basics – for example, a raised hand for sit, a pointed finger for stay and a thumbs-up for good job.
Prioritise safety. Even though it's obvious, it can be hard to realise in the moment that deaf dogs can't hear approaching cars, fellow animals or potential dangers. That means you need to consider everything you've taken for granted when it comes to dog obedience and safety. This can be especially difficult if your pet was great at following your commands and requests while at the beach or in unfamiliar territory on holidays. It's a good idea to start keeping them on a leash or in a fenced area when outside. You may also want to consider getting a tag for your dog's collar that indicates they are deaf in case they get lost.
Establish a routine. Knowing what to expect day in and day out can be super helpful for deaf dogs. Establish a daily routine for feeding, walking and playtime.
Avoid sneaking up on them. Your dog cannot hear sounds that may startle him, so approach gently to avoid sudden surprises. You can also try to get your dog's attention by tapping them on the shoulder or flank, or using a gentle vibration collar (see below).
Consider a vibrating collar. A vibrating collar can be a great substitute for verbal commands, as your pet can be trained to respond to the vibration when you want to get their attention or signal a command.
Keep your dog active. Regular exercise and playtime will help with your dog’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Socialisation. Familiarise your dog with other dogs and people, so that they can learn to read body language and interact safely with others. It’s wise to ensure all dogs are on a leash. If your dog is one who doesn’t typically enjoy the company of other dogs, then avoid situations that will make your dog stressed or uncomfortable.
Be patient. Just a little reminder that losing the ability to hear is a rough transition for your dog and is a great excuse for you to administer a big ol' dose of love and compassion. It will take them some time to adjust and react to your visual cues. Be patient and persistent, and use positive reinforcement techniques such as training treats and praise to encourage good behaviour.
As with caring for a blind dog, living with and loving a deaf dog requires patience, understanding and consistency.
Do you have experience transitioning to life with a dog that's lost their hearing? What has and hasn't worked for you? Please share any tips below!