Do you know a deaf dog?

Deaf dogs are considered disabled, but their disability is usually overlooked as it is not visual. However, these pets still require the same support, attention, and understanding that any other pet would need. There are plenty of deaf dogs leading full and diverse lives as beloved family pets, therapy dogs, dog athletes, adoption advocates and more.

Here are some things you might not know about deaf dogs!

Why do pets go deaf?

Pets can go deaf for many reasons. While some dogs are born deaf due to congenital deafness, other causes can be environmental or a result of an infection or an injury. Dogs can also develop deafness later in life. According to, causes may include chronic ear infections, nerve damage, tumors, drug toxicity, or injury. Poodles have narrow ear canals, which can result in a 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.

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, Ph.D., 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.

What are the signs?

It’s not easy to diagnose hearing loss, and it often goes undiagnosed for quite some time. However, there are some obvious signs that you can look out for. If your pet is otherwise healthy and stops responding to you calling their name, gets startled easily, or has stopped greeting you at the door, deafness could be the culprit. Developing deafness could also result in decreased activity, excessive barking, and a harder time waking up. Of course, pets, like people, sometimes choose to ignore us. If you think your pet may be having hearing problems, you’ll need to get them tested by a professional to confirm it. Pet deafness resulting from infection or injury can often be avoided if the ailment is detected early enough. If you notice your discharge from your pet’s ear, excessive scratching of the area, or they are frequently shaking their head, get them checked out by your veterinary provider as soon as possible.

Can deaf dogs be trained?

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 Remote 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 sister Izzy (herself a deaf therapy dog), Whiskey trained for a year before getting his therapy dog certification. He 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.

DogWatch Customer review featuring deaf dog


Just because your dog is diagnosed with deafness doesn’t mean they can’t still live a long, happy life. Retraining them using sign language is a great option, and you can stomp on the floor or use a flashlight to get their attention. You want to be aware of how easily they can get startled when they can’t hear you coming. Make your pup startle-proof by moving objects near them to get their attention and then immediately presenting them with a treat. Also, don’t forget to attach a tag to your pet’s collar identifying them as deaf!

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 Sydney (left) and Kruiser (right), who were the beloved pets of DogWatch of Central CT Dealers Sue Marks and Mark Bridschge. Sydney was born deaf. Sue says “Deaf dogs can do anything.”