Deaf Dog Awareness Week

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Guest post by Farrah Marx

Deaf Dog Awareness Week is dedicated to sharing tips, information, and stories that celebrate deaf dogs with loving families and great homes, but most importantly September 20th through the 26th focuses on bringing awareness to the number of deaf dogs up for adoption in shelters across the nation. The love, trust, and loyalty a deaf dog can have for their family is unrelated to the fact they can’t hear – and the love, trust, and loyalty we can have for a deaf dog should also be completely unrelated to their deafness.

Deaf dogs are more likely to be overlooked in shelters because they are considered “special needs”, but that does not make them unable to be trained. In fact, when trained correctly, deaf dogs can be very intelligent and receive communication just as well as a hearing dog. Here are five special things you should know or can relate to, if you have a deaf dog or are considering adopting one.

1. Gestures

Communication with your deaf dog is dependent on hand signals, body language, and facial expressions. Establish hand signals that allow your deaf dog to understand what you are telling them or asking them to do, such as ‘Sit’, ‘Stay’, ‘Shake Hands, ‘Don’t Do That’. A very important hand signal is ‘Good Job’, which can simply be a thumbs up. Many of us say something like “Ohh, good boy!!!!” when our pup correctly does what we ask – this is the equivalent. It’s really important your deaf dog knows they are being validated when they did well. Validation and acknowledgment can also be found in smiling or frowning. Deaf dogs learn to study faces and gestures and can easily distinguish if you are pleased or unsatisfied simply by your facial expression and body language.

2. Off the leash training

It is possible to train your deaf dog to behave off a leash, but there are factors to be considered. You do not have the ability to yell “Come here girl!” or “Get your treat!” to summon a deaf dog back towards you when they begin to wander too far. Off the leash training is not recommended near busy streets where cars are passing, for the safety of your deaf dog who does not hear the cars bustling behind them.

3. Contact

Most deaf dogs prefer to be close to their owner or a familiar face, often times napping at your feet, needing some sort of physical contact or keeping you in eyesight.

4. Separation Anxiety

While many people believe deaf dogs tend to have separation anxiety more so than a hearing dog, this doesn’t always have to be the case. Routine in itself creates stability and predictability. Another good way to prevent separation anxiety is to always let your deaf dog know you are leaving. Over time they will begin to realize when you let them know you are going out, you always return at some point. It’s best to not leave when your deaf dog is sleeping or occupied, so they do not spend your time apart looking for you. Another helpful way to reduce separation anxiety and help your deaf dog understand you are not home is to designate a toy or bone that will only be given when you leave. As soon as you are home and have greeted your deaf dog, put the toy or bone away. This toy or bone will help them understand and always symbolize they will be alone for a little bit.

5. Trust

A deaf dog is full of trust. They base their actions off of the trust they have in you, your gestures, and your relationship with them. They rely on your hand signal, and although they can read your face, they do not have the capability to hear the tone in your voice to gauge how serious to take your command, so your hand signals are always interpreted the same. Sit means sit. Deaf dogs also loyally trust the fellow animals in the household. If a hearing dog runs to the front door because the doorbell rang, the deaf dog will follow. If you verbally tell your hearing dog to sit, most times your deaf dog will observe and sit also. Just like hearing dogs, they will grow to put full trust in you and love you just the same as a hearing dog. It seems only right to return the trust, love, and loyalty to your deaf dog.

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