Deafness can occur for many reasons in dogs from being inherited, old age, ear infections, toxins and tumours within the ear canal. Often clients report their old dogs have become hard of hearing on walks and they ask us to test their hearing. This can be a difficult sense to test and often we can only carry out a very basic test. This includes getting the dog to look at their owner and clapping loudly behind them to see if they turn, or there is any register of the sound by them moving their ears. Sometimes owners are amazed they hear the sound as often at home they appear deaf – whether that is to certain pitches of noises or perhaps more “selective” hearing.
Unfortunately for dogs there is little we can do when deafness occurs apart from supporting their lifestyle and ruling out other causes of deafness. In certain breeds deafness can be inherited. For example in white dogs and cats often offspring are born deaf. It can be hard to tell if your puppy is deaf and often it is only when they are a few months old and don’t seem to be responding to training that may give you a clue. We have seen puppies in the past where even during their initial vaccinations they appeared to be responding very normally, however as training became more difficult and the pup more unruly it became apparent the dog could not hear.
There are certain referral centres which offer specific hearing tests for puppies especially if there is a history of deafness within the family. The tests require specialist equipment and can be very useful to assess the pups at a young age.
How can you teach a deaf puppy commands? Well very similar to humans deaf dogs respond very well to sign language. We have a few deaf patients which amaze us every time they come in with how well they respond to their owners. The commands include all the usual sit, down, stay and often a few other tricks as often they are so focused on their owners.
Owning a deaf dog does come with a few trials. Firstly we do not recommend allowing the dogs off lead unless in an enclosed space as recall is non-existent. For example if they get a scent of an animal and go off exploring there is no way to be able to get the dogs attention back on you. There are risks if they get lose near roads as they are unable to hear traffic. Being careful not to startle the dogs in the house especially if there are young children as they may turn around suddenly.
Owning a deaf dog should not hold either pup or owner back as the relationship can be very rewarding, just like owning a dog that can hear! If you have any concerns about your dogs hearing please don’t hesitate to contact your nearest Swaynes’ branch. It is always important with ears we can examine the ear canal as there maybe other causes of deafness and not just old age.