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Border Collie Rescue - On Line - Dogs Born Deaf
I Quote - "A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself." - Josh Billings

Dogs born Deaf

Light up your puppies face in his quiet world - by Nicki Oliver

Just found out your puppy is deaf?

Don't panic; maybe he's really not that much different from a hearing dog.

It's interesting to note that the gene causing a predominantly white coat on a dog is linked to the gene that causes deafness, so it is not that unusual for a dog with mainly white markings to be born deaf, sometimes with other hereditary problems such as skin or digestive disorders.

Often it is only upon the initial vaccination and medical check up at the vet, that the owner first discovers their new puppy is deaf, however this need not be the big handicap that it initially seems. It is simply a different manner of communication that needs to be applied.
There is no point in standing back and staring at the pup and thinking 'well there is no point in talking to my pup because he can't hear' - the pup will be watching you and his need for positive visual stimulation will be the same as any hearing pup, perhaps more so.

Talking while training will allow the dog to associate subtle facial expressions with required actions.
Staring in sympathy or horror will not help the pup feel at ease and could cause confrontation or the pup to avert its eyes because it feels intimidated.
A deaf dogs eyes and nose will be working overtime in order to compensate for his loss of hearing, so it is very important to give facial reactions, exaggerated for emphasis in the same way you may raise your voice to make a point.
A smile from your soul, that lights up your whole face when the pups gets things right, to a deep scowl that shows you are not at all pleased, will help get the message across.

To get though life without constant problems, the pup will still have to learn wrong from right, learn his position in the pack and pecking order and understand basic manners and protocols to interact with other dogs and humans.
You will quickly find that you are repaid 10 fold for the extra effort you put in.
When the puppy finds that you have responded to something he has done, his whole life becomes that much more interesting and worthwhile.

The opposite will also apply.
All Collies will wish to please their handlers, especially when they have grown cold and lonely inside through lack of interaction.
So go on, light up your puppies face. Show him that he does not have to be frightened of everything or confused by movement, vibration and activity around it.
With a sensible routine and perhaps a companion hearing dog to be his ears you can set up and create a happy life for your pup as you had originally hoped for before you discovered he was deaf.

Hand Signals

It is important to have a set of hand signals to go with every verbal command you would normally use to train and communicate with a dog, but never stop talking to your deaf dog because facial expressions are very subtle signals and later you may discover that the dog can pick up particular pitches or tones in one or the other ear, in front or from behind and just a little hearing could help in allowing more freedom or exercise off the lead in safety.

Bear in mind that vibrations can still be picked up by a deaf animal and can therefore be applied as a method of communication.
Indoors, wooden floorboards will readily transmit vibrations, whereas concrete floors are less effective.
Constantly try different try different types of whistles and sounds to check the dogs hearing - you may find you have a perfect way of communicating an important command such as stay or recall.

Starting training as young as possible is most effective.
Tiny puppies know no different and starting at the same age as one would with a hearing pup is all important.
Training a deaf dog when he is older can be more difficult but still quite possible and rewarding.

When an older deaf dog realises that he is no longer alone it is quite a powerful moment of contact for both parties involved. The bond between a deaf dog and his handler can sometimes feel more intense than with a hearing dog so you need to be careful not to train the dog to become completely dependent on you.
The whole point should be to widen their lives and make them self sufficient, enabling them more freedom to enjoy life's qualities without becoming scared to face the world without you - just the same as with a hearing dog.

Although all this information may apply to all breeds of dog, there is a particular quality that applies to BC's only.
This is the sheepdog 'eye' - the way they are stimulated by movement around them that may trigger an instinctive reaction to act in order to balance that movement.
To stare intently or move into a better position by flanking the moving object - running from side to side - chasing or circling around and trying to stop and hold the movement by the power of their 'eye' alone.
Stopping and staring intently, waiting for it to move again. This is a natural quality in the Border Collie and any working sheepdog breed that uses 'eye'.

Although this is still seen as a quality in a deaf sheepdog, it is most important to understand that we do not want a working sheepdog staring at its handler - this obviously takes away its concentration on the sheep. But for deaf dogs in a domestic home with no sheep to work and focus on, it is important to understand that in the absence of stock they will concentrate on a substitute.
This is a common problem with hearing BC's in the pet home. They will all have a different degree of instinct and 'eye'.
If a deaf BC has strong 'eye' you will have additional difficulties when trying to communicate with them if their concentration is constantly being interrupted by other visually stimulating things to focus on around them.

The most important initial command to communicate is therefore one that will gain the dogs attention and get it focused on the handler in order to receive further commands.
The 'Watch Me' command should come before anything else or how can anything else follow without the dogs attention on you? It is very important to make yourself interesting and stimulating to the dog - to be responsive and make training fun - to get onto the same level as the dog to play and be their to guide them when you can predict uncertainty in their reactions and movements.
Why else should they look to you for guidance or put their trust in you.

Most important, if you should go on to training classes, is to help them to reach their full potential, but to be careful not to stress the dog by being competitive and pushing to prove that your pup can compete to the level that other dogs can.
The dog may reach its full potential, even if you have not reached yours, but this can be the same with hearing dogs.
Many good dogs are stressed by over competitive handlers.

While training the deaf dogs that come through Border Collie Rescue, I have learned an awful lot.
How very tactile a deaf dog is and how they have a tendency to keep in close touch with their handler through physical contact, even leaning on you - feeling you are there and gaining confidence.
Observing deaf dogs while asleep have shown how completely 'out for the count' they are.
Clapping hands or jiggling keys above them makes no difference, however a sharp vibration through the floor can jolt them into consciousness with a sudden shock, so keeping deaf dogs calm in their routines is more essential than with hearing dogs and helps them to cope with surprises with less subsequent trauma.

Both blind and deaf dogs can have associated aggression problems when suddenly approached unaware, so keeping physical contact as a positive, rewarding and reassuring action is very important.
A careful balance of reassurance needs to be maintained as too much 'touching for reassurance' or 'over petting' can induce cockiness, possessiveness and a superior attitude towards other dogs which will inevitably lead to problems.

So - another reason for having a companion hearing dog for your deaf dog.

He noticeably was watching and taking information into his doggy world on a visual level.
His eye moved like lizards eyes, ready to catch any changes in his world.
Another canine to share his life was advantageous when lining up for dog training sessions.

'I can do that', he thought, as he watched the hearing dogs performing and receiving their treats for their responses.
He was right, he could.

The biggest reward for a Collie is to get things right and to please his handler - 'forget the doggy treats - just smile for me', he said.
Running free in the garden, recall the hearing dog and the deaf dog will follow. Get the hearing dogs attention and the deaf dog will look at you too. Frequent 'watch me' signals keep him in touch and make the basis for many sessions of enjoyable training for him.

Areas where they keep you guessing ! Is he deaf or can he hear?

When I sneezed he must have heard because he turned around and looked at me! - No, the blast of air and sudden movement caught his attention.

His ears keep moving and flicking around at sounds, like when I walk into the room and he looks at me! - No, this does not mean that he heard your footsteps or the door opening. Dogs ears move in connection with their sight as well as the other way round.
This auto-reaction is a way they confirm something using more than one sense.
The vibrations of footsteps through the floor, the air movement of the door opening will get the dog to look, and it flicks its ears in the direction of any movement it perceives.
Deaf dogs often have greater reliance on sight than hearing dogs - in deaf 'Collies', more so. They detect small movements of light reflected off dust in the air, shadows Etc. and will move their ears instinctively.

There was a loud noise and he looked straight towards it! - No, he felt the vibration through the floor or the air.
Sound moves in waves. Pressure. Loud noises like thunder, aircraft and many other sources or sharp sudden noises like a gunshot cause the air and solid objects to vibrate.
Our ears pick up air vibrations and translate them into signals to the brain - that's how we hear, but vibrations can be delivered by other mediums.
Soft materials tend to absorb and disperse vibrations and hard materials tend to transmit them - vibrations travel further in water than in air because the medium of water is denser.

He heard me unwrap the chocolate bar and bite into it! - No, he smelt it.

I was convinced that he could hear the clicker that I had been using to train my other dog with. Every time I 'clicked' he looked at my hand! - No, his eyes were so busy, he had caught the slight movement of the thumb and the reaction of the other dog to it. Fascinated by this slight movement he had kept his eye on it and focused every time he saw the movement.

Whenever I shouted for my hearing dog to do something, the deaf dog looked at me, perhaps he can hear a loud noise! - No, when you shout an instruction to your hearing dog it will usually look at you to check, the deaf dog sees this movement and looks where the hearing dog is looking.

Only when standing a distance directly behind a dog thought to be deaf, with no other dogs present who's reactions will give you away, will you be able to make a sharp noise to test if the dog is able to hear it or not.
A clap of the hands or whistle - very loud - will confirm or refute deafness.

In BCR we now assess all pups for deafness or hardness of hearing, especially the 'all white ', ' predominantly white' or 'full white faced' dogs that come in. A common pattern of markings on dogs predisposed to deafness is an all white coat with a small amount of black on the face, usually around one or both eyes and small discs or blotches of black on their bottom, above where the tail joins and on the flanks at the waist or shoulder.

Observation is the key factor - watch your dog for things he is trying to tell you - going to the door may well indicate he wants to relieve himself.
Somehow the 'quiet world allows a greater depth of communications between dog and handler. A greater empathy touches on a level of telepathy.
It will make you wonder why there seems to be such a necessity for all that noise when training dogs and increase your ability to bond and communicate with hearing dogs as well.

The following commands are taught with hand signals in BCR for deaf dogs.
Verbal commands are used alongside these, just as they are used for hearing dogs.
Accent on the 'watch me' command.
Click below to go to our page on Universal Commands and hand signals


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