My elderly and senior dog is teaching me how to age gracefully. She has slowly lost her vision but she remains the cutest, loving dog ever. She accepts her blindness, using her other senses to navigate day-to-day life. Watching her, I'm appreciative of how intuitive dogs are, and how much the human-animal bond comes into play in the quality of life we have together.
My brother's dog Kona is a little older than Cleo, and she's become deaf with age. She too, is still so very cute and happy. She's got white butt hairs that make me laugh, because she wiggles her butt in front of you until you scratch it. She grunts and snores on "her couch" most of the day now. Kona, without trying, shows us that a happy dog, in a loving family, doesn't need to hear to be content or feel loved.
Did you know that many rescues and shelters assume deaf dogs are unadoptable. Really? Kona gets around just fine at home. She's 15 years old and somewhat arthritic. Her family keeps her routine simple and they use simple hand gestures to guide her behavior.
This week is National Deaf Dog Awareness Week. Whether they can hear or see, or even walk, we know from experience today that dogs just want to be loved by their family. They want to feel your love, your commitment and loyalty. Having a hearing-impaired dog only means an adjustment on how you work together, not how you love each other.
Don't Over-think It
For me, the best basic advice I ever heard was "your dog just wants to go pee, have a warm bed, good food, a job like watching the house, and to be loved." Whether they can hear or not, having a bond with your dog and continually building on the trust between you is most important. We adopted our dog Cleo when she was about three to four years old. We've made a point of reinforcing her initial trust in us regularly, and in return she has developed and displayed an impressive level of calm.
It's about being with your match, and making a commitment. Cleo has only progressively lost her vision with age and after she developed diabetes. Kona has lost her hearing with age. Both dogs have families who are committed to looking past any myths related to the physical impairments and focusing on how to give each dog a good life. Dogs are experts at adapting.
You can learn how to use hand signals and simple gestures for training a hearing impaired dog
There is no reason to give up your dog because they are, or become, deaf. As we've learned with Cleo, ignoring stereotypes, assumptions and myths are key. Focusing on developing a healthy relationship makes all the difference. Dogs know love. I feel lucky to have adopted Cleo, even now after she has developed medical issues. She is a wonderful dog who continues to trust us, even after bumping her nose on a chair.
To help inspire and encourage readers here are three of the more popular myths about deaf dogs debunked. If you have a dog with hearing loss, and want to share your experiences, please email me or tell us in the comments.
Three myths about hearing-impaired dogs
- The "Startled-Aggressive Dog" Myth: The truth is that deaf dogs adapt to their hearing loss, and become comfortable with their surroundings. In the same way a hearing dog can be startled by a loud noise, a deaf dog can be startled by an unexpected touch.
- The "Deaf Dogs Should Never Live With Children" Myth: If a deaf dog is well socialized to human children, it is as safe to have in a home with children as any other dog. What is more important is the dog's history, its personality and any breed characteristics that affect how the dog reacts to small, quick-moving, and unpredictable humans. If you are considering getting a dog and you know children will be a vital part of the dog's life, then do the research from the point of view of finding the best match for your situation. Consider all the same factors you would if you were to get a hearing dog.
- The "Need A Hearing Dog" Myth: The truth here is that deaf dogs do not need a hearing companion as a guide. They are no different from any other dog in this regard. They do perfectly well as an only dog, as part of a larger family, or with only other deaf dogs. There is no valid reason that a deaf dog cannot be placed as an only dog in a home. The personality of the individual dog is what will determine whether or not a second dog is desirable (and there is no reason why their companion cannot be another deaf dog). It is certainly not a necessity.
What even more inspiration?
Read this wonderful story about training hearing-impaired dogs from Whole Dog Journal.