Deafness can occur at any time in a pet’s life, and for several reasons. Many animals are born without their sense of hearing. Whatever the case may be, deaf pets are deserving of a safe and supportive home. There are lots of ways that owners can provide all the elements for a fulfilling and healthy life, and training a deaf pet is an essential part of the process.
An electroencephalogram brainwave study (EEG) can formally diagnose deafness. However, hearing loss is often suspected and confirmed simply based on an animal’s behavior in certain situations. A deaf pet may act startled upon seeing you, or simply doesn’t react to loud or disturbing noises. Sometimes pets with gradual hearing loss cannot hear specific pitches of sound.
Connecting the Dots
Hearing loss can be connected to genetics, anatomic abnormalities, previous injury to the ear canal or eardrum, nerve damage, reaction to medications, and aging. We check for hearing responses at every pet wellness exam, and make notes regarding changes or difficulties. What’s more, routine ear cleanings can help maintain overall ear health and aural integrity.
Training a Deaf Pet
Above all, safety is the most important aspect of caring for a deaf pet. Without their sense of hearing, deaf pets are at high risk in traffic situations, public places, and around unfamiliar people and other animals.
Training a deaf pet is not only important, it’s incredibly gratifying. Owners are often surprised at how quickly deaf pets learn sign language. Many deaf pets know up to 50 different signs. You’ll need lots of patience to get started and loads of healthy treats. We can assure you that training a deaf pet fortifies the human-animal bond, and promotes a long, happy life.
A Strong Foundation
Deaf pets can roam free at home or in an enclosed area, but should otherwise be attached to their owners with a secure harness and leash. To communicate with a deaf pet, employ a vibrating collar or a flashlight to grab their attention. Since deaf pets startle easily, always try to alert them by placing gentle pressure in the same place, such as the shoulder or back.
Once you have eye contact you can use the following signs for a particular outcome:
- Good boy or girl – A simple thumbs up or the American Sign Language (ASL) sign for good teaches a deaf pet that they’re doing something right. You could also clap your hands and show excitement.
- Stay – Training a deaf pet to stay can be done by holding up one or two open palms facing them.
- Come – Use a sweep of the arm or hand to signal for them to get closer to you.
The Deaf Dog Education Action Fund is a phenomenal resource for owners of deaf pets. We are also in your corner as you begin training a deaf pet, and hope you’ll call us at (404) 633-6163 with any questions or concerns.