Klassi Kritters

I'm not ignoring you.  I'm just Deaf

Thousands of dogs are euthanized every year simply because they are Deaf.  Countless others are abused or abandoned because they are considered dumb or stubborn.  Shelters may consider them a liability and therefore, not place them on the adoption floor.  There are many myths and misconceptions about Deaf dogs:  
1.    Deaf Dogs Are More Likely To Startle and Become Aggressive.  
       Any dog, or human for that matter, will startle if touched unexpectedly.  Hearing dogs startle with unexpected noises.  Deaf dogs can easily be desensitized to touch and become very comfortable in their surroundings.  The goal is not to create a dog that will never startle.  It is to condition the dog to respond in a positive way to unexpected touch or events.

2.   Deaf Dogs Should Never Live With Children.

    If you have children and are considering a Deaf dog, first consider the same things you would consider if you were getting a hearing dog, i.e. size, breed characteristics (level of activity, trainability, temperament and coat type), and individual personality.  There are 89 known breeds with reported congenital deafness. http://www.lsu.edu/deafness/breeds.htm.  Deaf dogs come in all sizes and shapes but they are all a dog first, their breed second, their individual personality third, and Deaf last.  Next consider if you and your family will fit with a Deaf dog.  Do you have a fenced yard?  Are you willing to learn a new way to communicate?  Are you willing to supervise all interactions between your dog and young children until they are old enough to be trusted around the dog?  Will your children be taught to respect the dog and treat it gently and fairly?  Will they be involved in training?  Can you trust that they will follow the same rules for safety and manners that you expect from the dog?  If your answer is not yes to all of the above questions, a dog, hearing or deaf may not be the best choice for your family.

3.   Deaf Dogs Are More Likely To Be Hit By A Car.

    We are responsible for keeping our dogs safe.  Any dog, outside of an enclosed area and off leash, is in danger.  Even the best- trained hearing dog may run into the path of an oncoming car if chasing a ball, a cat, or a squirrel.  Dogs, hearing or Deaf, do not stop at the curb and look both ways before proceeding.  Training your dog to sit and wait to be released at the door is always helpful.  Never punish your dog for getting out or running from you.  It is especially important that a Deaf dog always feels positive when coming to you.  Teaching “Watch me!” and making sure you are the most positive and fun thing in the dog’s life, can be a life saver.  In my own case, my dog ran out of a side gate that had been left open.  She was crazy about balls so I always had several handy.  I grabbed the balls and ran out the front door.  She saw me out of the corner of her eye.  I bounced the balls, ran and threw the balls in the opposite direction of the street.  Game on!  I was able to divert her from danger and praise her for bringing the balls back to me.  It was a scary moment and a great time to put a lock on the gate.

4.  Deaf Dogs Are Incredibly Difficult To Train.

       The majority of individuals with Deaf dogs will tell you their dogs were actually easier to train than hearing dogs.  Developing a method of communicating with your dog is crucial and simple to learn.   Although many individuals simply make up signs, I feel it is important to use signs that are already known, i.e.  Standard Obedience signs and American Sign Language (ASL).   If your Deaf dog ever needs to be boarded, needs to stay at your vet’s office after a procedure, or is taken to a shelter, their time away from you will be much less traumatic if others know how to communicate with them.   When signing to your dog, make sure you talk to them at the same time.  Dogs are not born with an innate understanding of any spoken language.  They use their bodies to communicate with each other and are very in tune with our body language.  If you are talking as you sign, your body language and facial expression will be much more natural and clear.

Many, if not the majority, of the individuals with Deaf dogs are unaware their dog is Deaf when it is purchased from a pet store or breeder or adopted from a shelter. Once they begin to question some of the odd behaviors and realize their dog is Deaf, it is too late to follow the advice many receive from vets, breeders and pet stores; to take the dog back and get another one. They have already fallen in love and simply ask the question, "Now What?"

If you have a Deaf dog or are considering one, there are several great resources for you.  Join the Colorado
Deaf Dog Yahoo group; http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ColoradoDeafDogs/  We currently have 90
members.  Twenty two of the known breeds with congenital deafness are represented in our group. We
have a yearly Deaf Dog Play Day.  The year 2009 will be our 10th anniversary!  Please contact
RChampion@Q.com  or DDsaussies@aol.com for more information.  Other great resources include:

deafdogs@yahoogroups.com,   www.SpiritOfDeafDogs.org,   www.deafdogs.org,   www.D2Care.org.  

Rhonda Champion
Champ, Zap, Yodi and Midnight
http://www.D2Care.org  "Connecting Deaf Dogs with Caring People" 


Thanks to Rhonda Champion for supplying this article.  With having had train deaf dogs in the past, this topic interests me.  I do not have any deaf dogs, although I am asked about the issue frequently.  Deaf dogs deserve to have a great life and make wonderful pets.


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