5 Things You Didn’t Know About Deaf Dogs

The third week of September is Deaf Dog Awareness Week. This week is the perfect opportunity to celebrate all the wonderful deaf dogs out there, who are living full and diverse lives as beloved family pets, therapy dogs, dog athletes, adoption advocates, and more. Here are five things you may not know about deaf dogs, and all the things they are capable of!

Certain dog breeds are more prone to deafness than others.

The Dalmatian is the dog breed with the highest occurrence of inherited deafness. “30% of Dalmatian puppies are born deaf in one or both ears,” says George M. Strain, PhD, a leading veterinary researcher on the causes of deafness in dogs and a professor of neuroscience at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University. He also reports that many dogs who were born deaf also have white or nearly white heads, a sign that they are lacking crucial pigment cells that normally help the ears develop.

Dogs can also develop deafness later in life. According to PetMD.com, the causes may include chronic ear infections, nerve damage, tumors, drug toxicity or injury. Poodles have narrow ear canals, which can result in wax buildup that limits their hearing. Also at greater risk are breeds with long hair around their ears, such as Cocker Spaniels. The hair can get caught in the ear canal, forming a blockage. In both cases, hearing loss can be minimized with treatment and maintenance.

Training a deaf dog is not any more difficult than training a hearing dog.

The process of training a deaf dog is very similar to training a hearing dog, with one notable exception – trainers focus on hand signals instead of verbal cues. Deaf dog parents also need to be extra vigilant when it comes to dangerous situations such as wandering into the road or snacking on something he shouldn’t. Shouting “watch out” or “drop it” won’t work in these situations. Creating a fenced-in area outdoors and dog-proof areas indoors can help ensure his safety while still giving him the ability to exercise, sniff, play and just be a dog.  Remote trainers, such as the BigLeash V-10 Vibration Trainer, can be a valuable training tool for deaf or hearing-impaired dogs. Emily Renaud uses a BigLeash to communicate with Murphy, her deaf Jack Russell Terrier. She says she appreciates the BigLeash’s ability to help her “communicate with Murphy in a way he understands.” Murphy doesn’t let his deafness slow him down – he follows his Border Collie siblings Kip and Velvet wherever he goes! 

Deaf dogs can be therapy dogs.

One thing you learn quickly when researching deaf dogs is that many of them are living full, happy and busy lives with their forever families. The website Deaf Dogs Rock collects these truly inspiring stories. Included among them is the story of Whiskey, a deaf merle Australian Shepherd who works as a therapy dog. Whiskey was rescued from the pound at 16 months old, one day away from being euthanized. With the help of his big sister Patience the Dalmatian (herself a deaf therapy dog), Whiskey trained for a year before getting his therapy dog certification. He now regularly visits children in hospitals and special needs programs in his home state of Oklahoma.

Deaf dogs can participate in agility and other dog sports.

In addition to service dog training, deaf dogs also successfully compete in agility, scent trials and other dog sports. Deaf Dogs Rock shared the stories of a couple of deaf dogs who participated (and won) competitions alongside their committed owner/trainers. Cleo, a speedy 8 year old Jack Russell/Rat Terrier Mix, has won several agility championships, while deaf Pit Bull Luna has also successfully competed at Nose Work trials. We also found this great video of Cedar, a deaf Australian Cattle Dog, competing in a Disc Dog event at the Minnesota State Fair in front of an adoring crowd!

Deaf dogs can use hidden fences, too!

All DogWatch systems feature a warning signal, which alerts your dog that he is approaching the boundary. Our standard collars use an audible alert. While this option works for most pets, it is not the best option for pets who are deaf. That’s why we created a Vibration Receiver Collar. A deaf dog can quickly learn to stop at the warning signal before he reaches the hidden wire, just like his hearing counterparts.

Bioux the deaf Blue Heeler

Bioux the deaf Blue Heeler from Sarasota, FL, learning the boundaries of his DogWatch Hidden Fence

For more information about deaf dogs, check out these valuable resources:

Deaf Dogs Rock

Training and Caring for a Deaf Dog, from WebMD

“Should You Adopt a Deaf Dog?” from Petfinder

The dogs in our featured image are Old English Sheepdogs Sydny (left) and Kruiser (right), who were the beloved pets of DogWatch of Central CT Dealers Sue Marks and Mark Bridschge. Sydny was born deaf. Sue says “Deaf dogs can do anything.”

5 Comments on “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Deaf Dogs

  1. AWW! I would love owning a deaf dog…it melts my heart whenever i see. I think that even the dog with hearing abilities mostly perceive our action. But the deaf ones seems to have extra abilities.

  2. I have an almost 5 month old deaf Pit Bull that I took in after his original owner who was being evicted from their housing had threatened to just let him loose! I couldn’t imagine just letting a puppy go “wild” much less a deaf puppy. It wasn’t his fault he was deaf or that they were being evicted. I can only guess what they were being evicted for. He is the sweetest thing. I named him Apollo and when I got him he was 16 weeks old, within ten minutes of picking him up he had learned the hand signal to sit! My 3 daughters and I took him and our Husky (who is my 15 year old daughter’s self taught ESA dog) too all of the pet stores near us. It didn’t take Apollo long to also learn the signals for down and come. I have also taught him a potty signal for when I take him places. He just wants to be with me no matter where I go. We have all fallen in love with him.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Mel! It sounds like your puppy is one remarkable dog. He is lucky to have found you!

  3. I have a female pitbull Dayla, she was born deaf. She is so loving. And plays well with her brothers n sisters. I just recently lost my daughter to cancer and since hospice was such a big part in helping us, I want to take Dayla into hospitals as a therapy dog. I don’t know she re to begin, however Dayla is 8 months old and very sweet. It makes me happy to have her and her mama, Dutchess as pets. Oh, and Dayla has Dalmatian spots on her ears, so adorable.

    • Thanks for your comment, Connie. We are so sorry to hear about your daughter’s passing. Therapy dogs can bring so much joy and comfort, and it sounds like Dayla would make a wonderful therapy dog. As we said in our blog posts, deaf dogs can do anything! Thank you for sharing your story, and we wish you, your family and your sweet pups well.

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