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How to care for a deaf dog
Deafness in a dog shouldn’t stop it from having a full, happy life. In fact, there are many things you can do to help it to live normally without the hassles that come with a lack of hearing. Whether you suspect that your dog may be deaf or have the diagnosis from your vet – keep the following advice in mind to help care for your deaf dog.
How to know if your dog is potentially deaf
It can be hard to if your dog is hard of hearing – but there are a few signs which may indicate hearing loss or complete deafness:
— If they don’t respond at all to being called or move their ears when you talk to them
— In puppies, you may notice that they bite harder than their siblings. They may not be able to hear any protesting yelps from their siblings.
— If they don’t respond to feeding time unless they are physically moved towards their food
So how do dogs lose their hearing?
Dogs lose their hearing for many different reasons, and it can be hard to know if they are fully deaf or just hearing impaired. Some of the reasons they may go deaf include:
Their age: like humans, the normal aging process seems to take its toll on the ability to hear things loud and clear. Age-based hearing loss occurs when the sensory hairs within the dog’s ear start becoming missing or damaged. This typically happens at around 12-15 years of age.
Their breed: some breeds are unfortunately more prone to deafness than others. These breeds include: Dalmatian, Bull Terrier, English Setter, English Cocker Spaniel, and Australian Cockle dog. In fact, around 30% of Dalmatian puppies are born deaf in either one or both of their ears. Currently, there is no cure for this type of deafness
Infection, trauma, foreign bodies: some of the most common forms of deafness aren’t always genetic. Simply an ear infection, or something entering and lodging into the ear canal can cause temporary or even permanent hearing damage. A quick visit to your local vet will help to establish exactly what the issue is, and the next best step for treatment and recovery.
Use clear hand signals
Of course, one of the main ways to communicate with your deaf dog is to use clear hand signals. You may think that they’ll find it difficult to learn new commands, but in actual fact, dogs tend to learn things a lot faster when interpreting body language and signals.
Simple gestures include:
— Open palm facing downwards = “sit”
— Finger pointing down = “lay down”
— Hand out, with your palm facing the dog = “stop” or “off”
— Thumbs up = “well done” or “good girl/boy”
Of course, there are many varied versions of these simple commands, and it’s up to you which ones you try. Whatever you decide, make sure to keep it simple and consistent. Your dog will pick these up in no time!
Keep them on a leash or in a fenced-off area
Deaf dogs are more prone to accidents as they can’t hear potential hazards near them. You will need to be cautious with your dog around things like lawnmowers, cars, and even other animals. By keeping them on a leash or in an enclosed environment, they’re far less likely to hurt themselves or others.
Work on desensitizing them to being startled
If a deaf dog is startled, they can lash out or become aggressive. It’s important to train them to respond calmly to being startled or awoken to ensure yours and their safety. One simple way to begin training is to quietly walk behind them when they’re asleep, gently touch them on their back, and if they turn around calmly, pop a treat in their mouth. If they are still struggling to act calmly when startled, try turning on a light switch as you enter a room, or stomp a little louder as the vibrations may alert them that someone else is in the room.
Consider a special tag on their collar
Having a special tag on their collar means that if they go wandering or missing – the person that finds them knows about their hearing condition. It will ensure your dog receives the right treatment and that the right actions are taken to get them back to you safely.
Give them their own space
Because they may find it hard to hear when things are close by, they need a quiet space they can retreat to if the environment gets too much for them. They also need their own feeding area which is out of the normal house traffic. Hallways aren’t good spaces for deaf dogs to rest in, but a designated area in a larger room that’s secluded will work.
Deaf dogs do require a bit more attention than one that has full hearing, but your time and effort will eventually pay off. Just because they struggle to hear, shouldn’t mean they should struggle to lead a happy life. Dogs get used to the conditions they have, and are able to adapt fairly easily.