Is Jack Going Deaf?

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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.
jack_going deaf

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.
    Additional Readings:

    Deaf Dogs Rock
    Deaf Dog Education Action Fund
    Training and Caring for a Deaf Dog
    How to Make Life Easier for Deaf Dogs
    BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER: Living with and Training the Deaf Dog

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  1. As hard as it is to watch our dogs growing old, it is important to prepare for it. You have some great suggestions.
    jan recently posted…“I need someone to come shoot my dog.”My Profile

  2. Thankfully, Katie’s eyes are great, but her hearing seems to be going fast and our vet also said there was nothing we could do about it. Luckily Mom uses a lot of hand signals, so she works with those, and we also found if Mom talks real high pitched Katie hears better than if she tries to be loud. It is an adjustment, but we would rather have her be deaf than blind, so it really isn’t all that bad.Good luck to Jack. Eyes and ears going is not good.
    Emma recently posted…The End Of Summer Isn’t Always A Bummer!My Profile

    • We empathize…I think I’d rather have a blind dog than deaf…maybe because I’ve been through it before. I’d prefer them to stay young forever, but that’s not gonna happen.
      mkob recently posted…Is Jack Going Deaf?My Profile

  3. Thanks to you for such an important post, it’s so great that you always try to find a way to solve a problem, I learnt a lot from you and I hope I can learn much more, specially to look for a way in hard times instead to sit crying in a dark corner…
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog FABULOUS FURSDAYMy Profile

    • Thanks Easy, we’re glad to have you as a friend & reader.
      mkob recently posted…Is Jack Going Deaf?My Profile

  4. I have heard of DeafDogsRock before and have visited their website a few times. They rock and share great advice on how to adjust your lifestyle to living with a deaf pup.
    I have taken care of 3 blind pups so far, and they all adjusted beautifully to their new situation. As a matter of fact, I think their owners had a harder time accepting that their beloved pups lost their eyesight. What all 3 owners refrained from doing was rearranging their furniture so that their pups didn’t have to get used to a new route throughout the house. Neither had a bell on their collars, although I think that’s a fantastic idea.
    You will figure things out with Jack ~ you’re so well prepared and doing so much research. I love how proactive you are!
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Goodbye Summer, Welcome Fall!My Profile

    • When I saw how easily Tino dealt with his blindness, it made it much easier for me. Live in the moment they say…
      mkob recently posted…Is Jack Going Deaf?My Profile

  5. It’s tough to deal with these senior issues, but it is so great that you are getting prepared ahead of time. Our beagle Kobi had diminished hearing too, but he never went completely deaf, and at least his eyesight stayed good. Luckily I had always used hand signals for commands along with words, so he already knew some.
    We were lucky to meet Nitro and his Mom from Deaf Dogs Rock when we went to BlogPaws. Nitro seemed completely comfortable and his mother was so nice that I know they would be a great resource.
    Jan K recently posted…#52Snapshots of Life – “Shadow”My Profile

  6. Jack is just doing his part to help you guys get a good lower body workout. All that jumping is good for you 😉

  7. Oh boy! I always say my huskies have selective hearing, but poor Jack.
    I am glad to hear his vet visit went mostly well though!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…5 Reasons I Feed My Dogs PumpkinMy Profile

  8. Thanks for sharing these suggestions. My 12 year-old dog is also going deaf. At first we noticed he couldn’t hear my voice anymore, but heard when my husband’s called his name. I assume it had to do with the pitch of my voice. Now, a few months later, he doesn’t hear either of us calling him and he doesn’t know when we’ve come home after work. We have to lightly touch him to let him know we are home. We’ve started using hand gestures to get him to come to us. Cody hasn’t let any of this get him down. He is still a happy guy.
    Sharon Seltzer recently posted…Walkies! Fit Bites Giveaway and ReviewMy Profile

    • Same with Jack – doesn’t phase him at all.
      mkob recently posted…Is Jack Going Deaf?My Profile

  9. I have a friend who has a deaf OES who knows American sign language and that dog is amazing and well adapted! My own OES went deaf in his later years but the jumping up and down worked well for both of us. We eventually worked out a code that helped him and kept me from stroking out. Your efforts with both dogs is truly inspiring. Bless you. 🙂
    Monika recently posted…A conversation with the dogMy Profile

  10. Those are great tips to help a dog that is losing their hearing. I worry about Bentley because he has had so many ear infections. Hopefully, we have them under control now.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Remember Me ThursdayMy Profile

    • Yeah, those are troublesome. Keep ’em clean!
      mkob recently posted…Is Jack Going Deaf?My Profile

  11. Oh no – I didn’t realize Maggie was having health issues!

    Jack sounds like he is in good hands even if he does lose his hearing. When my senior dog, Shadow, lost a lot of her hearing ability, I used to flicker the backyard light to let her know it was time to come in. It took me a while to get used to coming home from work and she’d be fast asleep, not hearing me opening the door and coming in. When she saw me she’d be super excited – but until she woke up, it was definitely different. More of an adjustment for me than her I suppose. The good news was – she was no longer bothered by thunder and fireworks!
    Blueberry’s human recently posted…Blueberries vs the BlueberryMy Profile

  12. Oh jack it’s rough getting old. Thank you for your tips to help out the seniors who can\’t hear well.
    Sand spring chesapeakes recently posted…Norman SurpriseMy Profile

  13. I’m sorry to read about Jack’s hearing but… I have tried your last suggestion with our departed dog, S, when he went deaf. A vibration collar ROCKS. You do need to do a little training to teach Jack that he’ll get a treat (or something good like a game of tug) if he looks to you or comes to you when he feels the vibration. We used a shock collar that had a “vibration” setting but my trainer recently told me that collars that only vibrate (and have no shock settings) now exist. I haven’t researched it, though.

    We also made sure S always had on a pretty loud bell whenever he was off-leash. Between the two things (vibration collar and bell), he could still run around off-leash on our hikes, as long as we supervised him closely.

    We also “stomped” on the floor as we approached him when he was snoozing so we wouldn’t startle him too much. We didn’t think of always touching him in the same place to awaken him. That’s a good idea.

    I wish that we had repeated our program to desensitize our dogs to thunder after he went deaf. He became very afraid of thunder when deaf (I guess the house shook for no reason that was obvious to him). With our new dogs, we play a game where they get a treat for every clap of thunder. Perhaps you could play that game with Jack now so he learns that the house shaking (due to thunder) is not an awful thing.

    Sorry to go on and on… but I hope that this transition is easy for Jack and you.
    KB recently posted…Throwback ThursdayMy Profile

    • Good tip about the thunder – I’m happy to say that 1. we RARELY have thunder storms in CA and 2. even when we do (maybe once a year) Jack and Maggie sleep soundly through it.
      mkob recently posted…Strength Training for Dogs: Hind LegMy Profile

  14. I once watched a deaf dog run a Started Hunt test. It was an older dog and this test required the dog to mark a duck falling in the field and then retrieve it and then do a second one. They had to do the same on water. The dog did great. Went right out and fetched the duck and brought it back. It took a bit of faith on the part of the handler though because of course the handler had no way to call the dog back if it decided to do its own thing.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Downed TreeMy Profile

  15. The aging process of a dog can be so scary, but with shared information like this very well written post – people learn they are not alone and there are many various techniques tested and tried. Hugs to Jack, and prayers that his hearing remains right where it is. You all are extraordinary pet parents.
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…PET PARENT #EXTRAORDINAIREMy Profile

  16. UGH, watching them age is so hard. It’s the time when I really, really wish I could find a way to communicate with them so they’d understand what I’m doing.

    I’m not sure if Sampson is losing his hearing or not but there are definitely times on our walk (when he is off leash) where he doesn’t respond to me. Now, that could be just selective, but I love your ideas and think I will start working on touching each of them in one area, to get them acclimated to knowing it’s me.
    Jodi recently posted…Rocky’s Rollers Rock Our World #SponsoredMy Profile

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