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Living & Working With A Deaf Dog – a personal experience

By: wetnosesfb | January 5th, 2016 4:32 pm

In March 2005 I adopted a 3 year old male Australian Shepherd, named Montana. He was a double merle, meaning he was the offspring from breeding two merles. As a result he was born deaf. His eye sight was fine, except in very bright sunlight. I remember my husband’s concern with adopting a deaf dog. With positive reinforcement training, patience, and love, he flourished and reached his full potential. He turned out to be the most well-behaved and sweetest dog I have had the pleasure of having as a member of the family. I could take him anywhere with me. We made therapy pet visits to assisted living homes, presented to young children at a local preschool school and library; teaching responsible pet ownership, how to behave around dogs, and bite prevention. He was good with everyone and other animals. We had a child a year after we adopted Montana. Two years later we adopted a cat, and he was wonderful with both our daughter and cat. Montana was an invaluable training assistant, especially when working with reactive or fearful dogs, and with children who had a fear of dogs. We was very patient with all. Montana crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on August 17, 2014, at the age of 14Horim_USA_2005_yigal_cam 213 years.

There are many myths about deaf dogs such as they startle easily and therefore may be more likely to bite, they are not good with children, and they are difficult to train. These behaviors can exist in any dog. Deaf dogs can be trained just as easily as a hearing dog. Instead of using verbal cues, hand signals are used. Dogs are very visual, and understand body language better than our verbal languages, making training with hand signals easier for the dog to learn.

Montana was sensitive to flashing lights and shadows, so instead of using a small flashing light as a training marker, I used a thumbs up.  He barked at shadows cast on our wall from the sun. We once came home to a bloody mess. He tried to escape and had clawed his way through the dry wall right down to the wood of the wall, next to the door that leads to the garage. This caused bleeding from his nails from wearing them down to the kwik. I tried to modify this behavior but it proved to be too difficult. He made very little improvement, so management was the easier option. We made sure to turn lights on before dark and shut all shades and window curtains. We later put timers on our lights so they would go on before dark. He wasn’t walked after dark because the car lights made him nervous. He also hated having his picture taken, once he discovered that the camera flashes a light.  So we took pictures of him during the day, when a flash wasn’t needed, and while he was distracted with something else. In the picture shown here, he was in a sit and waiting for me to throw the disc for him to fetch.

Montana initially startled easily if touched. He would jump up and be nervous and confused, even if he wasn’t asleep. Although I always made sure I was in his visual periphery to announce my approach, I knew desensitizing would be important in case others didn’t know better or didn’t know he was deaf. Through systematic desensitization, I worked on reducing Montana’s reaction when startled, taking into consideration that this is an instinctive, reflexive response. I started by pairing a light touch of his fur with a food reinforcer. Gradually, I increased the pressure of the touch on his body and applied pressure with my whole hand. I touched him on his back or rump. This proved effective and he became much less “jumpy” when startled. His response was more like “hey, didn’t see you there”. When waking him up from sleep, I gently blew on his fur.

I live in a two story house and Montana often retreated to our upstairs level to sleep or rest. He learned that when I flicked the upstairs light on/off a few times, I was calling for his attention. He would come to the top of the stairs to find me at the bottom of the stairs waiting for him to come downstairs.

Montana learned many hand signals including those for sit, down, stay, come, spin right, spin left, settle, walk, car ride, play frisbee, play tug, paw, and kiss. He learned to walk off leash without wandering too far off from me. During our off leash outings, he frequently checked in with me, by stopping and turning around to make sure I wasn’t too far behind. He learned to stay within the boundaries of our property. Many friends and neighbors would comment on how well behaved Montana was despite his deafness. They were especially impressed that an Aussie would stay within his boundary, even if another dog was going by.

If anyone has any experience with a deaf, blind, or deaf & blind dog, please share. I am sure it will be helpful for anyone who is considering adopting a dog with these limitations, or who already has such a dog and would be interested in what others have experienced.

Writer: Susie Petitti, B.Sc, MBA, CPDT-KA®, CBCC-KA®, AKC CGC® Evaluator

Fear Aggression – Can we save Colleen?

By: wetnosesfb | May 18th, 2010 10:48 pm

Hello dog lovers,

It has been long debated whether or not dogs with fear aggression could be rehabilitated and turned around. Many would say that a dog that has been growling, showing teeth and nip, even if it hasn’t harmed anyone yet, will eventually bite thus, needs to be euthanized, and sooner the better.

Me and Susie belong to the ones that will think it over several times and rather give a dog a chance, or to be more precise, will give it a chance if in proper hands. The handling, the love and patience with rehabilitating dogs is the profound key to success and as long as an aggressive dog has not gone beyond the point of no return, there is always a good chance for recovery. Read More

Crate Training

By: wetnosesfb | July 23rd, 2009 11:02 am

Hello puppy owners,

Puppies are fun aren’t they? But are you really up to the task and commitment? Are you ready to put in the extra work for the next few months? Will you give your pup a hug when he wakes you up crying to get out of the crate and go out to eliminate or will this drive you nuts? If it does, do yourself and the pup a favor, DO NOT GET ONE!!!

But if you can wake up with a loving smile on your face twice a night, a puppy is for you and I am sure you will have a lot of fun making a new life time friend who will pay you back ten folds for all the love you have invested. Read More

Aggressive Dominance in puppies

By: wetnosesfb | June 29th, 2009 3:11 pm

Hi puppy admirers,

Can a 9 weeks old puppy be “aggressively dominant”? Is there such a thing or is it owner’s ignorance and lack of socialization issue?

A recent incident has made me bring this issue up to current and future puppy owners’ attention.

I have been called for behavior evaluation of a 9 weeks old gorgeous little pup. The owner claimed that the puppy was growling and snapping at kids and mainly when presented to a large group of them. Read More

Do our dogs try to dominate us?

By: wetnosesfb | June 22nd, 2009 6:28 pm

Hello dog friends,

I have been asked by a few of my website visitors about their dog’s behavior that looks to them like he/she was trying to dominate the house and the available books and articles by old school trainers suggest that all dog owners should take the bull by the horn and show the dog who is the BOSS and any bad behavior on your dog’s part is due to him trying to dominate you.

Now, you wonder if you have got the right answer? Well, let me surprise you, YOU HAVE NOT!

Dogs have never ever tried or will dominate you. This myth is just not true. Read More

Electric, invisible fence – Yes or Not?

By: wetnosesfb | June 1st, 2009 10:56 am

A tribute to a gorgeous Husky girl named Daisy

Daisy’s story has ended sadly on one of the main roads in the town of Hollis, New Hampshire where she was hit by a car still wearing her electric shock collar that supposed to confine her to the “fenced” yard. The system tested aftermath was working fine…

Hello dog lovers,

So, as you understand from visiting my website, I am a great fan of Positive Reinforcement. I will never punish a dog by any means, no hitting or kicking, no yelling or screaming, no yanking on the leash and will never use electric shockers of any kind. Read More