Is Jack Going Deaf?
Friends have asked how Jack is doing through all of the family upheaval surrounding Maggie’s illness. Jack can be an anxious dog, but we’ve worked to keep his routine the same which alleviates his anxiety. He still gets his morning walk at the park, sometimes with Maggie, sometimes just with mom. He still gets his mid-day walk with Megan, his dog walker and of course mealtimes are the same.
Jack was due for his annual senior wellness last month and I have to admit, I was worried. Not that he was sick, just one of those weird premonitions you get…”What if BOTH of my dogs are sick, what would I do?”
Luckily, he got an almost clean bill of health. The first issue was his kidneys. Two of the several kidney function measures were slightly elevated, over normal. Not significant enough to do anything about at this time, but he does have to go back for a recheck in three months.
The other more significant issues are his sight and his hearing. Having had a blind dog before (Tino) and knowing how easy it is to adjust, I wasn’t worried when Jack developed cataracts and started loosing track of me outside and even in the house sometimes. With Tino, I could just call to him or make a clicking noise and he would be able to zone in on my location.
But Jack’s hearing is going too. Calling him, whistling or my old clicking noise doesn’t always get through to him. I find myself at times out in the yard jumping up and down and yelling in order for him to see me. My neighbors must think I’m nuts.
I asked the vet about it and while he did say Jack’s ears could use some cleaning, there probably wasn’t much I could do about it. I’m fortunate that he is not totally deaf and his hearing level may stay where it is now, but I’m going to prepare myself and Jack just in case. We did the same with Tino. He suffered from glaucoma and lost one eye first so we had time to adjust and start teaching him to use his other senses before he lost the other eye.
This week happens to be Deaf Dog Awareness week, so it’s a good time for me to be doing some research into living with a deaf dog.
I learned that deafness can be genetic or can be caused by injuries, chronic infections or old age. Deaf dogs startle more easily and therefore MAY become more anxious or even aggressive, so it’s important to learn how alert your dog and not startle him. You need to to acclimate your pup to a soundless or in Jack’s case, a somewhat muffled existence.
Suggestions for day-to-day living with your deaf dog include:
- Use other means besides sound to get their attention. They can feel vibrations, so stomp on the floor to get their attention or use a flashlight or laser beam as a guiding light.
- Waking a deaf dog should always be done in the same manner – to avoid startling them. Touch them gently in the same spot, on their shoulder or leg so they become familiar with your touch. Overall, touch becomes very important since your dog can’t hear your voice. It’s important to touch them often so they recognize your friendly touch.
- Hand signals are critical and it’s important to teach your dog as many as possible. Think of your spoken commands and create a unique hand signal for each one. This a bit more challenging with Jack since his eyesight isn’t great, but we’re going to start on some immediately.
- While I’m not a fan of using shock collars, even though I know they have their place in working/sporting dog training, the use of a vibration collar that emits not a shock, but a vibration (like your cell phone on mute) can be useful in gaining your deaf dog’s attention. Putting a bell on their collar may help YOU keep track of them in the yard.
I still have a lot of reading to do and need to investigate working with a deaf and blind dog – while Jack is neither yet, I want to be prepared and I know the tips I find will be helpful in keeping him safe.
A few other resources:
A great website called Deaf Dogs Rock that has all sorts of helpful information, including an adoption service for deaf dogs.
There is also the Deaf Dog Action Fund: The mission of the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund is to provide education and funding for the purpose of improving and/or saving the lives of deaf dogs. We are a non-profit organization founded to speak on behalf of and assist in the betterment of life for deaf dogs everywhere.
Stay tuned as I will write more about this as I learn more and work with Jack.