Owning a deaf dog is quite similar to owning a dog with hearing.
However, it can also present its own unique challenges and specific approaches to doing things.
Today, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about owning a deaf dog.
We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
Related: Deafness in Dogs and How to Spot It
Complete Guide to Owning a Deaf Dog
As mentioned above, life with a deaf dog is very much like life with a hearing dog.
Training essentially works the same, and being deaf doesn’t stop your buddy from doing all the things that other dogs love to do.
Of course, there are some unique challenges, but we’ll talk about how to overcome those!
You’ll see why a lack of hearing shouldn’t deter you from adopting one of these adorable hearing impaired guys or make you afraid of caring for the deaf dog you may currently have.
How Can You Tell if a Dog is Deaf?
First things, first. How do you know if a dog is deaf, to begin with?
There are five common signs that are often noticed when a dog is deaf or severely hearing impaired.
1. Not Coming When Called
A major indicator of deafness is simply not coming when called.
You may notice that your dog, or a dog you’re thinking about adopting, seems very happy to see you but won’t come to you when you call him.
He may seem to pay less attention to you than he did before, almost to the point of ignoring you.
If your dog is only partially deaf, you may find that you need to yell louder and louder as time goes by for him to “pay attention” to you, but really he just can’t hear you.
2. Uncharacteristic Disobedience
Deafness is a process that happens slowly. Dogs gradually lose their hearing rather than it simply disappearing overnight.
As this process worsens, it’s easy to misconstrue your dog’s lack of hearing with a seeming increase in disobedience.
Your once laser-focused dog may seem distracted or unresponsive.
It may take more than one command, often issued in a much louder voice for your dog to obey.
He’s not responding to your vocal displeasure, rather, it’s probably the first time he heard the command even though you may have given it several times.
3. Increased Reactivity
As with people, when a dog loses one sense, his other senses become more heightened to take up the slack.
Because of that, what was once merely a noise or vibration can become cause for alarm.
An unexpected touch, shadows crossing his vision, and even vibrations from doors closing can cause an overreaction that you may have never seen before.
4. Increased Barking
Just as deaf people tend to talk more and more loudly the more they lose their hearing, dogs tend to bark more loudly and more often.
Animals and human regulate their vocal volume based on what they hear. If they can’t hear anything, things tend to get loud.
In addition, if your dog can’t hear himself, he most likely assumes that you can’t either.
He really wants to “talk” to you, so he’ll naturally ramp of the volume and frequency of his barking.
Many humans with hearing loss become depressed from their decreased ability to interact with their surroundings and friends and family.
While scientists currently don’t know if animals can experience depression, studies have shown that dogs with hearing loss tend to become more withdrawn – at least in the beginning.
Many dogs sleep more and become more passive in their interactions with their environments.
This is due to their decreased ability to use all of their senses, which can lead to confusion due to their inability to navigate their environment the way they once could.
Luckily, almost all dogs bounce out of this phase as they become more and more adapted to their loss of hearing.
What Breeds Are Most Prone to Deafness
While deafness can strike any dog, some dogs are more prone to it than others.
Just like German Shepherds are more likely to have hip dysplasia than other dog breeds, there are breeds of dogs that are more like to become deaf than others.
In fact, over 30 breeds have a known susceptibility to deafness. The most common of that list are:
- Australian Shepherds
- Boston Terriers
- Cocker Spaniels
- German Shepherds
- Jack Russell Terriers
- Toy and Miniature Poodles
- West Highland Terriers
- Bull Terriers
- English Setters
- Parson Russell Terrier
Living with a Deaf Dog
Owning a deaf dog requires different approaches and a good understanding of what the dog may be experiencing.
It’s essential to view the world through your dog’s eyes so that you can better meet his needs and understand that many of his behaviors are not disobedience or behavioral issues.
They are simply the result of his loss of hearing.
Deaf Dogs Bark More
As I previously stated, deaf dogs bark more. It’s simply their way of interacting with the world without their hearing.
They cannot do anything about it.
They have no medical knowledge of what deafness is or the fact that the entire world hasn’t just stopped emitting sounds.
Their perception is that everything is just as deaf as they are.
Sudden flashes, shadows, and vibrations will all become causes for loud, prolonged barking so that your dog knows for certain that you are apprised of every situation happening within the home.
It’s important not to punish them for this barking. Patience and understanding are key here.
Deaf Dogs Can Sometimes Be “Aggressive”
Aggressive is in quotes here because that’s not actually what’s happening.
A deaf dog is more easily startled, which means that certain things can trigger an involuntary fight or flight response.
Ensure that all friends and family, both living in the house or visiting, understand that your dog is deaf and that they need to be slow and methodical in their movements.
This is for their safety as well as your dog’s.
Deaf Dogs Tend to Sleep More
As previously stated, deaf dogs tend to sleep more. This isn’t necessarily a symptom of withdrawing from everyday activity.
Rather, they just don’t have as many stimuli in their lives.
Think about how dogs react to things.
- They hear a doorbell, and they know someone is at your home.
- They hear a car, and they go to see what it is.
- They hear you call them, and they go to greet you.
Without all those auditory stimuli, there’s just not as much to hold their attention.
Another thing to note is that deafness and old age often go hand in hand with dogs just as with people.
Older dogs naturally have less energy, to begin with.
When you combine a lower energy level with a lack of sound, you get a dog who may not be withdrawn at all but just happy to be taking his old-age naps.
Training a Deaf Dog
Owning a deaf dog means you’ll be approaching training a bit differently. To begin with, you’ll be making full use of hand signals.
He can’t hear, so sight becomes your training tool.
You’ll train him to your hand signals the way you would train a hearing dog to your voice commands.
I covered these signals in a more in-depth post which you can find here. .
For the moment, let’s look at the 10 most important hand signals you’ll want to teach to your dog.
- Open Hand Down – This is the universal signal for “sit”, used in both hearing and deaf dogs.
- Finger Pointing – The finger point works well for sending your dog to his kennel, mat, and the like. It’s also an excellent signal for agility work.
- Thumbs Up – Just as with people, thumbs up is the hand signal for “good job”. Be sure your face reflects your hand signal on this one.
- Okay Sign – This is the same idea as thumbs up. Just like thumbs up, be sure you’re smiling and look happy when you sign this to your dog.
- Finger Pointing Down – This is the universal signal for telling your dog to lie down.
- Time Out Signal – This signal is good for commands like “leave it”, “drop it”, or “quite”. What makes this one especially good for those commands is that it is clearly different from other hand signals.
- Hand Out – This signal is most often used for the shake trick.
- Two Fingers Pointed at the Eyes – This is the “watch me” symbol used by virtually every deaf dog owner.
- Call Me Symbol – This is another unique, easily recognized symbol for your dog which could be used as a recall cue.
Check out the video below for tips on teaching your dog these hand signals and more:
As with hearing dogs, never train through punishment.
No dog understands this, but it’s most especially detrimental to a deaf dog who is already trying to navigate the world at a disadvantage.
Always train using patience, praise, and reward.
Vibration collars are often used in conjunction with hand signals to help train deaf dogs.
Be aware, that these collars are not the same thing as shock collars. They’re not cruel and in no way cause pain to a dog.
Rather, these collars are often used to help teach a dog to look for and to his owner.
It’s a way of getting his attention when you can’t just call his name loudly.
Many owners have great success with these collars to the point where their dogs actually learn to frequently “check in” with their owners over time.
This is especially helpful when taking your dog to public places like dog parks where constant awareness of each other is key.
Do Deaf Dogs Make Good Pets
A deaf dog absolutely makes a good pet. Owning a deaf dog is no different than owning a hearing dog at the core of things.
Both deaf and hearing dogs offer unconditional love, lots of cuddles, and an endless source of warm fuzzies.
The only difference is how a deaf dog perceives the world and how you train them.
If you’re wondering if owning a deaf dog is for you or if you’ll be able to adequately care for your dog that is currently losing his hearing, I’m happy to tell you that the answer is a big, fat “yes.”
Deaf dogs make just as wonderful pets as any hearing dog, and caring for a deaf dog isn’t all that difficult.
Just remember that patience is key, but then again, that goes for owning any dog, doesn’t it?