This week is National Deaf Dog Awareness Week (Sept 24-30) and we wanted to take this time to honor all dogs who are suffering or who have suffered with hearing loss of any kind. Dogs have an incredible sense of hearing which they rely on to navigate through life. Humans can hear 20,000 vibrations a second while cats hear up to 25,000. But dogs can pick up sounds at up to 35,000 vibrations per second!
Sharing a home with a canine that is hard of hearing can be difficult. Though few dogs are born deaf, many lose their hearing from ear injuries, as a genetic defect or in old age. We wanted to shine some light on some facts about deaf dogs to assure you that they are no less intelligent than any other dog. They are just as smart, funny and charming!
- Deaf dogs can bark. They may not use barking as a standard form of communication like other dogs do but they act through instinct. If they want to bark, they will bark!
- The most common breed of dogs to be deaf are Australian shepherds, Boston terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Dalmatians, German shepherds, Boxers, Jack Russell terriers, Malteses, toy and miniature poodles, and West Highland white terriers.
- Many deaf dogs are white. Dogs born without pigment are also missing “hearing cells”. These “hearing” cells start from the same stem cells as pigment-producing cells. If a dog has no pigment in its body, it’s likely that it will also be deficient in the specialised “hearing” cells which cause deafness
- Deaf dogs ARE trainable. Just like other dogs, deaf dogs learn hand commands and tricks. While they will never have the same recall skills as a hearing dog, they are just as trainable and obedient.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the below tips will help owners care for a deaf pet:
- Train your pet to recognize hand signals instead of vocal commands.
- Use a heavy stomp of the foot when you need to get your dog’s attention- they can often feel the vibration in the floor.
- Try to gently tap or pet your dog to announce your presence or your exit.
- Avoid letting your deaf dog wander outside alone, unless you have a fenced yard. There are obvious dangers with letting your dog anywhere near traffic and other hazards that he or she won’t be able to hear approaching.
- Consider attaching a bell to your dog’s collar. This makes it easier to locate your dog quickly in the house or in the event of an escape.
- Be sure that all of your collars bear an alert that your dog is deaf.
If you think your dog may be deaf, there are certain ways to see if you’re correct. One way is to wait until your dog is asleep, or not looking, and make a loud noise. If the dog cannot see you, cannot feel any vibration and still doesn’t respond, there’s a good chance your dog is at least hard of hearing. For pet owners who want to know for sure, contact University Animal Hospital for further testing.