Deaf dogs and adoption of less adoptable dogs – Red Bluff Daily News

Two weeks ago I discussed a type of pet with special needs, blind dogs. Many factors can make a pet less adoptable, such as having a missing eye or limb. Also included in the list are those with health issues, such as cats with FIV and dogs with heartworm.

Other special needs may be related to past emotional or physical trauma. This month, to promote these special pets, Petfinder has designated the third week of September as Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week. Additionally, Deaf Dog Awareness Week runs from September 18-24 and highlights another type of animal with special needs that may also be considered less adoptable.

We had a deaf dog. Although we didn’t have it tested, it was very apparent, as it never reacted to anything quieter than a one-megaton explosion. However, she barked, played and, from all outward appearances, didn’t seem to realize she was deaf. She continued her happy life. We have learned that deaf dogs don’t care if they are deaf. We learned that deaf dogs are just dogs and, like people, have their own quirks and personalities. We have learned that deaf dogs are just as loving and devoted as any hearing dog.

Deaf dogs really make wonderful pets. Take it from one who knows. Anything you may have heard to the contrary is masked by misunderstandings and prejudice. The only real limitation is that a deaf dog should not roam freely unless he has an enclosed, secure, and safe space available to him. A deaf dog cannot hear approaching danger, such as a car. Otherwise, a deaf dog is as easily trained as a hearing dog. The only difference is that you have to use non-verbal cues rather than verbal commands.

Like any training, you first need to get your student’s attention. Deaf dogs won’t respond when you call their name because they simply can’t hear you calling. However, they will react with other types of stimuli. Stomping the ground causes vibrations that they can feel. Waving a flashlight, or clicking on it and turning it off, will usually attract attention, especially when the dog responds and the reward is a tasty treat. Additionally, you can use a vibrating collar, which differs significantly from shock collars. These collars only vibrate and are not painful for the animal.

When teaching basic commands to any dog, the use of hand signals is common practice. Therefore, training a deaf dog to use them is perfectly natural. As always in training, after attracting the animal’s attention, a command (signal) is given to the animal to perform a specific act, after which a reward is provided. Some people create their own set of hand signs for particular words like sit, stay, lie down, walk, etc., while others learn a few basic American Sign Language words.

Whatever you choose to do, remember that the signal must remain consistent for the animal to associate the word and the action. Finally, never hit a deaf dog with your hands. Your hands are your means of communicating with the animal and should always be positive and reassuring tools.

A common myth is that deaf dogs are more aggressive. The reason behind the myth is that if you startle a deaf dog, he will bite. Any dog, whether deaf or not, when startled, may snap or growl in fear. Therefore, it is important to work with the dog so that the animal is comfortable with someone coming from behind and touching it. A few times a day, wake your dog up by very gently touching his shoulder or back, then immediately reward him with a treat.

Soon the dog will associate the alarm clock with something good. If you don’t want to scare the dog, stomp or bump the bed he’s sleeping on. Chances are the vibration will wake them up. Again, always offer a reward.

Deaf dogs tend to bond closely with their guardians. In the community of those who have deaf dogs, these animals are affectionately referred to as Velcro dogs because they are most comfortable when they are close to their person. As with hearing dogs, some may develop separation anxiety. However, the training methods to condition them not to be afraid of being alone are the same as for any other dog. Always remember that deaf dogs can do agility, therapy, etc., almost anything a hearing dog can do. There is nothing wrong with them. They’re just dogs that can’t hear.

If you are considering adding a deaf canine companion to your life, the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund, ( and Deaf Dogs Rock ( websites are good places to find useful additional information and resources. Additionally, the books “A Deaf Dog Joins the Family: Training, Education, and Communication for a Smooth Transition”, by Terrie Hayward, “Living With a Deaf Dog”, by Susan Cope Becker and “Acorn’s DEAFinitely Awesome Dictionary of Signs” , by Mary L. Motley can also be very useful.

As author Charlotte Schwartz wrote, “For perhaps, if the truth were known, we would all be a little blind, a little deaf, a little disabled, a little lonely, a little less than perfect. And if we can learn to appreciate a dog’s full potential, we will be successful together in this life on earth. I couldn’t agree more. Why not give these special pets a chance?

Ronnie Casey volunteeredg with the Tehama County Animal Care Center since moving in 2011. A retired RN, she strives to help animals in need in Tehama County. She can be contacted at

Bette C. Alvarado