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Deaf dogs can live normal, happy, fulfilled lives the same as deaf people do.
Living With a Deaf Dog
If you have found yourself suddenly living with a deaf dog, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. You may feel that you are not prepared to handle the needs of a deaf dog. The truth is that living with a deaf dog is easy.
Dogs understand body language better than they understand the spoken word.
Dogs do not naturally understand words. We take for granted just how amazing it is that they are able to learn how to understand our language. What does come naturally to dogs is reading body language and other non-verbal cues. Deafness in dogs can actually make communicating with your dog easier. It takes a lot of training to teach a dog to understand verbal commands because language is not natural to them. It is extremely easy to teach them hand signals because reading body language is second nature to them.
A lot of miscommunication between a person and their dog occurs because the human's body language is in direct contradiction to the words they are speaking. The human wants the dog to follow the spoken words, but the dog is keyed in on the body language because it is easier for them to understand. This is explained further in the excellent book The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell with an excellent example of how our body language typically says 'Go Away' when we tell a dog to 'Come Here'. We humans usually bend forward toward the dog while we call him to come. That body language says to the dog 'go away'. Leaning away tells them to come towards you. This is one example of how we confuse our dogs by giving mixed signals between our spoken words and our body language.
This is not a problem with deaf dogs because they cannot hear our spoken words. We are forced to pay more attention to our body language, and that leads to clearer communications with our dogs. The biggest challenge in training a deaf dog is training ourselves to be aware of our body language. If we did that anyway, we'd have less trouble training our hearing dogs as well!
The Deaf Dog Education Action Fund
The Deaf Dog Education Action Fund (DDEAF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving and saving the lives of deaf dogs. They provide education to the public about living with deaf dogs and are working to eradicate harmful myths that cost many deaf dogs their lives. Please visit their website to find out more information about deaf dogs, including how to train using signs.