For most pet owners, having conversations with our treasured companions is commonplace – and we’re quite convinced that they are listening intently to every word that we say! Communicating audibly with our pets is an important part of our relationship with them – from reinforcing their good behavior to recalling them from a dangerous situation – and of course, soliciting their advice for any number of our human issues. For some pets, though, verbal communication is not an option, or is a method that gradually fades as pets age.

This week, 9/20-27, is Deaf Dog Awareness Week, bringing attention to hearing impairment in our furry friends. Whether your pet has perfect hearing or no hearing at all, they can still bring joy to your life and benefit significantly from the love of your family.

Larimer Humane Society Behavior Supervisor Mary Babbitt recommends these methods for training work with deaf or hard-of-hearing dogs:

  • Consider using a vibrating collar when teaching your dog. The vibration means to “check-in” and look at the owner so other cues can be given. Vibration collars are different from shock collars, in that they give a mild sensation to attract the dog’s attention – they do not deliver any type of electrical impulse.
  • Be respectful when the dog is sleeping or not paying attention. Deaf dogs can startle easily and may not realize that the touch that woke them is their loving owner. Also be sure to teach children that there are clear rules about when it is and isn’t okay to approach or touch a dog, particularly one with hearing impairment.
  • Be creative. Try to think about what non-verbal cues might work in your home. For example, at night when it’s harder to see, think about teaching a deaf dog that the porch light flashing off and on a few times means, “come inside now.”

While it takes more patience and understanding to train dogs who are hearing impaired, the reward at the end is equally as satisfying as audible communication. Most owners find benefit from sign and body language an alternative method of communication. Dogs are very perceptive of these types of signals and are able to quickly make meaning of and commit to memory visual commands. Learn more about training your dog with nonverbal cues by following this link.

Have fun learning with your furry family member!