You see the most enchanting pair of eyes gazing steadily at you from behind the kennel door at the local animal shelter. You bend down to talk to this adorable creature, and his tail wags happily. You're in love! But when you ask about him, the adoption counsellor tells you that the dog is deaf, and may display some common deaf dog problems.
What to do? Some dogs are born without hearing, while others lose it due to medical reasons or injury/trauma. Challenges in living with a deaf dog can reasonably be expected, although deaf dogs still make loving and excellent pets for the informed and dedicated owner. Fortunately, there is plenty of help from local dog trainers, other pet owners, and even from veterinarians and counsellors at pet rescue organizations (there are even rescues devoted solely to finding homes for deaf dogs!).
Many of these "behavior problems" aren't really problems, but instead they just require a new way of thinking and adjusting to living with a deaf dog. Likewise, several of these issues are very similar to those you would encounter with a hearing dog - with just slight adjustments for a deaf dog.
Most dogs will look back at their owners, "checking in", in a sense. A well-trained deaf dog is no more likely to misbehave than a well-trained hearing dog. Because us humans are accustomed to using speech as our communication tool, owners of deaf dogs simply need to be "trained" themselves in how to communicate with their dogs. Dogs respond extremely well to body language and postures.
That doesn't mean a deaf dog is more prone to acting aggressively by snapping or biting. Hearing dogs get startled too, and they usually do not respond by biting. Most dogs, deaf or hearing, will show normal startle reactions ranging from "jumping" if you really startle him, or simply turning and looking at you, as if to inquire what you want.
The mere fact that a dog is deaf doesn't mean it's
going to have behavior problems ...
but because it's a unique situation, knowledge is always helpful.
Be prepared to deal with a few adjustments and you will be
rewarded with a well-adjusted, loving and devoted companion.
Talk to the adoption counsellor at the animal shelter, to the
vet, to other people with deaf dogs (most will attest to the
fact that their dogs are excellent pets)... the more you
know, the better prepared you will be.
Deaf dogs can lead happy and normal lives - and
Deaf dogs can lead happy and normal lives - and enrich yours!