Well, Teagan has been living with us for a bit over a week now. Sadly her visit with a potential adoptive family didn’t work out.
Within the first day of Teagan arriving it was discovered that she is deaf. Several tests of yelling, whistling and finally videos of people blowing dog whistles only confirmed this suspicion. She has not gone to the vet for a proper BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test, but at this point mum feels it would only serve as a formality.
Of course this discovery gave us a great opportunity for some internet research. You gotta ask, does lack of hearing really make that much of a difference? The answer is yes and no. The approach to training is different in that the trainer can’t depend on sound to gain attention or for correction. There are also a few things to keep in mind when working around a deaf dog. But all things considered, deafness does not translate to ignorance. Teagan is no exception. She is a very smart girl and learns quickly.
In our internet searches, the best site we found by far was the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund. The top of their home page explains quite simply the reason for this website’s existence:
Every year thousands of dogs are killed simply because they are deaf …
This is a very powerful statement. Teagan does have the benefit of maturity, and perhaps she was able to hear at one point. It is really difficult to believe anyone would want to do ….that… to her just because of a little hearing thing.
Disadvantages of owning a deaf dog:
– They startle easily. If Teagan does not see you touch her, she tends to startle, regardless of whether you are a Pug or human. This is common for deaf dogs.
– Just about all commands have to be visual to be effective. Stomping on the floor is one of the few exceptions. The hand signals aren’t really that big a deal; I’ve always been trained with a combination of hand and voice signals and will easily respond to either.
– Figuring out what to use for a visual command can be challenging (and embarrassing). The humans have been going around giving the “thumbs-up” sign for “good dog”. They say they feel like cheese-balls for doing it. I can’t see anything wrong with a ball of cheese, let alone feeling like one.
– There are times visual commands are ineffective. Teagan got out of the house one day when a UPS delivery person came to the door. Luckily, she decided to stop at the sidewalk to smell the pee-mail rather than take off. Teagan as learned that by looking away she can ignore hand signals, especially when she is being told she is doing something wrong.
Advantages to owning a deaf dog:
– Teagan is not afraid of the vacuum cleaner.
– The humans don’t have to spell out key words for her like W-A-L-K.
– Teagan sleeps soundly all night; the cat thumping around doesn’t wake her up.
– Neighbourhood dogs can bark right outside the house and she won’t care, or even notice.
– Teagan makes me look super-smart. The humans never really thought about how many words I know. Not until they had to start thinking up hand signals for them – outside, walk, car, treat, bedtime, dinner, breakfast, go pee, get the cat……… the list goes on and on.
Like many deaf dogs, Teagan is a bit of velco-dog. She has velcro’d onto mum and typically likes to maintain physical contact. The interwebs say this is because she can’t hear the humans move around so she has to be near them to feel secure. I wonder if it is just an excuse to hog all the snuggles.
Like many of the dogs that come into a dog rescue, Teagan has things about her need to be considered by a prospective adoptive family. In Teagan’s case, knowing is half the battle. Thankfully there are a lot of resources out there for training a deaf dog. There is even a yahoo group for owners of deaf dogs.
Although Teagan is not a Pug, she is a super-sweet girl. I just know she will make a good addition to any family who is willing to overlook her disadvantage… but we can’t all be Pugs, can we?