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My Dog Is Deaf: But Lives Life to the Full

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Deaf Dog Personality Traits & Behavior

Actually, deaf dogs are no different than non-deaf dogs. There are a lot of misconceptions, but generally some are laid back, some are hyper, and some just don't give adamn when you call them! Deaf dogs adapt to their hearing loss, and become comfortable with their surroundings just like any other dog.

They do not startle easier and can be desensitized to the startle effect of being touched unexpectedly or awakened from sleep. I know Jazzy reacts like I do when is accidentally woken too soon, "I want to go back to sleep, leave me alone!" LOL So much for the startle myth!

Still, to be considerate to your deaf dog, many owners do take special measures to alert the dog to their presence before walking up to, or touching the dog. Many ways they do this are wave their hands in the air, flip a light switch on and off, lightly blow on the back of the dog, or toss a ball or small stone near him. Or they simply wait until the dog turns toward them. The care owners take in waking, or walking up behind a deaf dog is not because they are afraid of being attacked or bitten. Rather, it is being kind,which acknowledges the special needs of the dog. Deaf dog owners don't work to create a dog that will never be startled, but to condition the dog and teach it to respond in a positive manner to unexpected events. That's how you get a well-adjusted, happy dog.

In 1997, the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund (DDEAF) conducted a survey of deaf dog owners. One of the things they asked about was aggression. They wanted to know what situations caused the dogs to be accidentally startled. The results showed that very few dogs had aggression problems. Problems were just typical of having dogs - chewing, digging, housebreaking...  

Deaf Dogs are Good with Children, if raised with Good Children

Getting a dog that is good with children is easy. Train your children to be kind and considerate of dogs. All of the criteria you would use in finding a hearing dog is pretty much the same for a deaf dog - level of activity, trainability, breed, size, personality....The right deaf dog in a home with children can teach them a lot about dealing with someone who doesn't have the same abilities that they do. Motivated children usually make wonderful dog trainers (better than the adults in many cases). And is there a better dog, than a deaf dog, for a deaf child?

Deaf dogs are no more un-street savvy than any other dog...keep them in a yard or on leash!

No dog needs to roam, unsupervised, without a leash - anyone that does will likely get hit by a car. It's not because he didn't HEAR the car, it's because the owner is a dumbass and let him run loose. It's your job as the owner to look out for the dog. All dogs will wander into the street from time to time...and if a car happens to be there too it won't end well. This implies that the hearing dog has a survival advantage because it can hear the approaching car, and easily move out of its way. But dogs are not born knowing that the sound of an approaching car, or honking horn, and do not have instincts about getting out of the way - until it's too late.

Needs a Hearing dog Myth

This is one I hadn't heard of...this one affects dogs in rescue and in shelters. Rescues (and sometimes breeders) will often make it a requirement to have a "hearing dog" already living in the home. People who are thinking of adopting a deaf dog are put off by the idea of having to adopt two dogs, instead of just the one they were interested in. Sometimes vets will recommend to new owners to get a second dog. This is ridiculous! Deaf dogs do not need a hearing companion as a guide. They are no different from any other dog in this regard. They do perfectly well as an only dog, as part of a larger family, or with only other deaf dogs. There is no valid reason that a deaf dog cannot be placed as an only dog in a home. I think the way this myth got started is that only a true dog lover would get a deaf dog, and therefore probably already have a hearing dog in the home. The deaf dog seems to follow the hearing dog, and appears to be depending on it. But the deaf dog is simply following the lead of the dog who already "knows the routine." In families where the deaf dog came first, they've noticed that the hearing dog follows the deaf one. In families with 2 or more deaf dogs (and no hearing ones), the new dog still follows the lead of the older one. Dogs are social animals, and will tend to hang out together when away from home. This does not mean that the hearing one is looking out for the deaf one, it's just one "family" member keeping track of the other.

Deaf dogs are NOT hard to train

Dogs use a lot of body language, they do not live in a world of 'words'. Visual signals are more effective for any dog than voice commands. Dogs do not rely on the spoken word. They use their bodies to communicate intent, submission, dominance, and a other emotions. Barking and whining are additional means of communication. Dogs are always "reading" us, and place a higher value on our body language than the words we speakso if you use body language to train your deaf dog, or any dog, you'll find it works much better than words anyway.

Many different people find themselves with deaf dogs. Some of them adopt (or buy) a dog, and find out after the fact that their dog is deaf. Some people adopt deaf dogs, even if they haven't had one before (because they want that dog, and are willing to learn what it takes to live with him or her). Others will deliberately look for a deaf dog, either because they have had one before, or because they want to give a home to a dog who needs it. If the only home that a deaf dog could be placed in was an "experienced" one, none of them would ever get homes. It isn't necessary to be deaf to own a deaf dog, any more than it's necessary to have 4 legs to adopt a 4 legged dog.

You Know You Have A Deaf Dog When ...and I've experienced most of them.... Your dog ignores you (just as hearing dogs do) by turning her head away Your dog doesn't care if her favorite toy has a ‘squeaky’ or not.   Your dog likes to lie on your feet or across the doorway, so that you can't leave the room without him knowing. Instead of listening for your car, your dog watches for headlights on the wall (and can tell your car’s lights from your spouse's) You flash the porch lights on/off for your dog to come in.

Stomping on the floor doesn't mean you’re angry. Your dog is decorated for Christmas year round with bells You think about gestures rather than commands" You walk though the house waving a dog bowl when it's time to eat. You are the only one at the dog park "calling" your dog back by waving your arms over your head.   Praising or scolding your dog consists of wildly exaggerated faces and hand motions. Your dog watches your hands intently hoping for the gesture "cookie". You inadvertently train your deaf dog to do something weird, because a habitual gesture you use all the time caught her attention. People are impressed that your dog knows so many hand signals - until you tell them that he is deaf. The first question you receive regarding your deaf dog is "does she bark?"

People argue that your dog can’t be deaf, he's paying very good attention, is responsive and well trained, and his ears move. You unintentionally do your "good dog" hand signal to your coworkers, spouse, dogs and cats. You touch your dog for so many more reasons besides petting. Your dog trainer stops talking to the hearing dogs and uses signs.

You forget to talk to humans and start signing at them. All your dogs learn the deaf dog's signals...especially the one for "cookie". You can open a crinkly snack bag and your dog doesn't notice till the smell reaches her. You don't have to spell when talking in front of your dog. You can sing off key and your dog doesn't howl. You use hands signals to talk to your dog while simultaneously talking to a friend on the phone.

You can enter your house with an armload of groceries, sneak into the kitchen, and unload them - all before your dog knows you're home. You can get up to go the bathroom in the middle of the night and your dog doesn't wake up. You can play possum and not have to get out of bed so early in the morning if your dog just doesn't see you move or open your eyes. You can look forward to July 4th and New Year's Eve because the noise doesn't bother your dog. When someone rings the doorbell, your dog continues to sleep (people think he's so well-behaved).   Dogs can bark right outside your house and your dog will go right on sleeping. You get that cockeyed look from your dog saying, "please make yourself clear - I have no clue what you want". Your neighbors and friends long ago forgot which of your dogs is deaf, and so speak to both. You forget and do the same. Your deaf dog is fascinated by human ears, and investigates them when she can, but ignores the ears of other dogs.

About puppies

Puppies learn from each other about the age of three to eight weeks that they must use a gentle-inhibited bite.   If a puppy is unable to hear the screams of its play-victims, and its own screams when play-bitten with needle sharp puppy teeth, it may less quickly learn to use an inhibited bite.  Thus a deaf puppy is at  risk of being less well socialized because he has a more difficult time learning bite inhibition. The mother dog can make up for this by using various doggy parenting tricks to teach the young pup. Unfortunately a first time mother is less effective in educating their offspring to use an inhibited bite and play nicely together without bullying.  

Velcro Dogs Many deaf dogs, as a coping mechanism, become velcro dogs. In other words, they keep a body part on their human and are always touching. This lets them see or feel the human (or other dog) and know when they leave or if something interesting happens. Often they will lie in a doorway or underfoot for this same reason. Jazzy likes to lie in front of the refrigerator!  Deaf dogs are typically much attuned with 'air movements' e.g. if the dog is in a crate and an outside door is opened, the dog will usually wake up because it senses the changed air movement and human fresh smells.

Dogs deaf at birth tend to eventually discover they can detect and ‘understand’ vibrations by  touching or standing on vibrating surfaces.   Dogs deaf at birth seem to have a breed and species specific tendency for barking, whines, and “lost-puppy” chirps. But any dog as an adult also learn to vocalize other sound patterns, even imitating human words and phrases. Deaf puppies are likely more into vision and smell than their littermates, compensating for the lack of hearing sound.

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