"The chase" Photo by: Padraicyclops

Occasionally you will detect your dog’s response to a trucks rumble, a dog’s bark or someone

Entering the room, this will cause you to question how deaf they really are. In fact, their more highly developed sense of smell and sensitivity to vibration and air movement become significant cues for them to relate to their environment. You will notice your deaf dog develop more of these sensitivities as it matures.


Typical issues to think about as a deaf dog guardian:


Touch Sensitivity - Deaf dogs often are touch sensitive. This is likely the result of people grabbing at her or him to get attention or from not hearing an approaching person or animal.

Make sure you Reinforce the dog with something it would love to eat at the moment it you

Touch him/her or that it has startled. This way you will pair something “good” happening and

Soon you will find that the dog reacts less to whatever scared him or her.


Startles easily - The dog may startle easily if she or he does not see the person or dog approach. Try and position yourself so the dog can see you try stomping your feet. Or if its dark out turn the lights on and off quickly. Again pair with a yummy treat of some sort right away.


Touch and startle response - Touch sensitivity and startle response merge when the dog is sleeping. Awakening a deaf dog from sleep can cause a touch sensitive startle resulting in a snap or even a bite unless carefully desensitized.  A soft touch on the side of shoulder paired with a yummy treat is a pleasant way to awaken a deaf dog.   Again its very important that you Pair something really yummy with your touch. This way the dog will look forward to you touching him/her.  This must continue for the life of the dog.


Separation Anxiety – Deaf dogs may have separation issues because they cannot hear. For example, if you leave a dog in a crate she or he may panic about being alone because it cannot hear activity in the next room. Leave the dog with an activity to do while you’re gone like to eat a stuffed Kong or a buster cube. Leave the TV on and a light of some sort.


Recall – If your deaf dog runs away from you, how will you get her or him to return to you? All dogs are selectively deaf if not trained to reliably ‘come’ when called. For all dogs, their ability to stop and return to you and to avoid trouble may occasionally be a matter of life or death. This issue is intensified by the deaf dog’s inability to hear danger as it approaches. It is vital that you resolve to have your deaf dog on a leash at all times when not in a confined area. This discipline will result in a dog with a very reliable recall if accidentally freed. 



Deaf dogs make wonderful companions if you are willing to make a special effort to live with them successfully. Most notably they need to be carefully supervised and managed on leash at all times or within a confined area. More challenging for humans who are so used to talking is the need to develop a mode of communication without sound, using hand and body signals. The deaf dog is not handicapped – he or she simply can’t hear. They do not know they are deaf. Typically, deaf dogs compensate for the lack of hearing sound by developing a stronger reliance on visual signals and on their sense of smell. Because dogs don’t speak or use language to communicate as we do, they are ahead of us in their ability to read body language and detect meaningful patterns of motion. Research has shown that even dogs with normal hearing learn signals easier and faster than they do words. So the challenge really is for us to learn to use signals effectively and consistently to build an effective relationship with our deaf dog.

Deaf Dogs

Your dog is never going to hear your velvet intonations. But you will have all of those same Nonverbal tools to use in building a relationship with your deaf dog. You’ll just have to come up with a system of hand signals instead of words to use to ask your dog to do things with and for you. And above all, you need to make certain your dog sees what you signal and trusts you enough to allow your touch. In time hand signals and touch will be the bridge to your bond.


Do no Harm – Because your hands and your touch will be so important for communication and to your bond, it is vital that you make the choice not to coerce or physically correct your deaf dog.  Positive reinforcement training is essential in building the bond you need with your dog.  You will need to develop the skills of letting your dog understand in clear terms what you expect and how good she or he is when meeting your expectations. Physical correction risks creating confusion, fear and distrust in your deaf dog. It is left with no option but to fight back, to snap or even bite. Punishment for the deaf dog should be no more severe than a wag of the finger (no!) a shrug (too bad), no treat or a time out.


A Common Language – As dogs don’t speak English you don’t need to learn American Sign Language which teaches you to spell words to be successful with your deaf dog. You really only need simple signs that are symbols of what you want. As you will usually have a leash and hopefully treats, one handed signs are most feasible. Keep it simple and keep it instinctive so you can remember this alternative language. Also, when your dog encounters someone who has not been instructed in your secret language, they may be able to guess what your dog’s behavioral signs might be. All dogs strive to communicate with humans. Deaf dogs are really desperate for some connection. As you both learn together, you’ll see your dog brighten, be enthusiastic, attentive and show an aptitude to learn that is equal or greater to a hearing dogs because of its ability to stay focused on you. Be patient as you are both learning something new.



Building a relationship – We build relationships between canines and humans by learning each other’s respective signals. Human signals are most often verbal: we use words, sounds, intonation, and volume. Our faces and our bodies have corresponding movements that enhance the meaning of the words such as smiles, frowns, stiffening, slumping, flailing hands or arms, or even the speed or lack of it in our walk. We also support our relationships with touch. If we are not touching, nearness or distance of our bodies communicates trust or a lack of it.
Deaf dogs are dependent on us.  It is always important that we earn and sustain their trust by being clear and caring!
"The Chase" Photography by:
Patrick McArdle
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