Winston the Wonder Dog is deaf, but he is also blind. With another three years minimum left in his lifespan, Winston and any other hearing-impaired dog will adjust fairly easily to a silent world with only small concessions from you and live happily ever after.

There are challenges to having a dog you cannot hear in your home, but it takes very little to accommodate his or her environment for safety and happiness.

  • Keep his ears clean to prevent further hearing loss if it isn’t completed gone.
  • There are dangers to deaf dogs that are more dangerous than with hearing dogs.
  • Pups are capable of learning hand signals from humans to communicate.
  • Watch for signs of decrease in the ability to hear.

Reasons a dog may lose part or all of his hearing

Just like people, there are a number of reasons that your pet has partial or no sense of sound.  She may have been born hard-of-hearing due to a breed problem or a birth defect.  She may have gotten an ear infection that as undetected, critters like mites (great reason for regular ear cleaning!), a reaction to a medication, a blow to the head, getting older, or even having a loud noise cause permanent damage.

Watch for signs of hearing loss such as jumping when touched from behind, looking for people or other pets when she should be able to hear them making a noise, and not responding to sounds such as having her name called, the doorbell, or sounds of her dinner getting ready.   

Winston will sleep through dogs barking and people talking and Godzilla walking by, so I’m pretty sure he’s mostly deaf. However, the transformer outside my house blew up (that was fun!) and he looked around. Winston also very rarely barks. I think he used to hear, but lost it.The first time I heard him bark, I wasn’t sure what it was. It’s more of a “ruff” rather than a bark, but he’s done it twice for no reason. Once I think he thought he was playing with something because he looked like he was chasing something around his feet and the other time, he was just lying on the bed. I’m not sure if he can even hear himself.

Deaf dogs have more perils than those that can hear.

Dogs do not look both ways when crossing. They listen for the sound of a car, truck, bus, or train. A deaf dog does not do this. That being said, it’s very important to keep a hearing-impaired pooch on a leash at all times when outside. Since any dog can slip a collar, invest in a good harness. 

It will also help you guide your sweetie rather than just pulling at her. The driver who honks his horn doesn’t know she doesn’t hear it. If you call her to keep her from out-of-the house danger, she will keep on going. In addition, a strange dog barking or growling at her is sending a message she isn’t getting.

Colette Williams of the University of California, Davis, Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital specializes in testing and working with deaf dogs and states that having a hearing household dog will aid in adapting to loss of sound. She states that once the hearing dog understands the deaf dog is limited, he will work to compensate with actions such as waking the impaired animal gently to avoid startling, intercepting dangers, and leading the way for activities not clear to his deaf housemate. It took weeks for the rest of my Pack to recognize Winston isn’t intruding on sleeping space; he just didn’t see the sleeper or hear the warnings to back off.  Now, however, that seems to have stopped. Two of the four other dogs have also sort of stepped in as caregivers, licking his constantly matted, non-seeing eyes and those big old droopy lips. Even the slobber. Gross.

Just in case your deaf pooch is lost, put on his ID tag that he cannot hear. You may even consider putting a bell on her for when she’s out of your sight, indoors or out, so you know where she is since she can’t hear you calling.

Dogs can learn sign language!

Well, sort of. Just like with obedience training, an owner can teach a multitude of signals to communicate commands, praise, and disapproval. Combined with facial expressions, a deaf pooch can get along just fine in the home. However, it may take a little practice to remember she has to actually be looking at you first before you start signing. The signs don’t have to be American Sign Language, but be sure they are the same all the time and for each person in the house. Having one person using a palm away for stop and another using the same sign for sit would confuse me, let alone your poor puppy. It has been found that dogs understand their human friends by learning to combine facial expressions, body language, use of hands, and tone of voice into an effective way to understand.  If you use all of these ways to communicate and your furbaby starts to lose her hearing, she will adapt much better to losing the sound of your voice because she already knows the other components of your “talking” to her.

Keep in minds that while humans use their voices to communicate, dogs use their bodies. Do a little “Be the dog” mindfulness and use hand signals, facial expressions, and body language to replace your mouth so your dog will have an easier time knowing what you mean. If you can remember this, it gets easier to remember that when she can’t see you, she can’t “hear” you.

To prevent stress, let your hearing-impaired dog know when you are leaving the house. If she wakes up and finds you gone and she can’t find you, she may freak out. Keep in mind that her world has been radically changed and she may be frightened and confused until she gets used to things. Having consistent techniques to help her will be a real benefit to her adjusting. Be careful when waking a sleeping dog that cannot hear you. The sudden jolt may startle her into a defense reaction like a yelp or even a bite.  Put a piece of food under her nose or some other identifiable scent. Winston sleeps REALLY HARD and will stand for a moment or two while he wakes up, weaving like a high school kid that stayed up texting until the wee hours on a school night. I stay away from Winston during this time, just in case he’s crabby.  Wait, that’s me.  He’s never crabby.

Here’s a side note that may just be me, but I never use negative reinforcement on Winston.  For one thing, he doesn’t hear “NO!” when I yell for making a mess. But the fact is, I just can’t bring myself to punish him for his little mistakes when he probably couldn’t figure out what he was being punished for. And what would I do? Smack him? Really? Smack a BLIND DOG? Anyway, he doesn’t get into the trash because he can’t find it and doesn’t take things off the table because he can’t find it and . . . well, you get the idea. And he doesn’t jump because bulldogs can’t jump. Really. Short, fat legs. All that leaves is the slobbering and who can help that, right?

There are signs your dog is going deaf.

Signs of possible problems hearing

Again, the deaf dog may have trouble waking up.  It’s even worse for Winston because he can’t see either. As hearing decreases, your Good Girl may become less obedient to verbal signals because she can’t hear them. She might also bark more because she isn’t hearing herself. Her personality may change because she’s confused at the changes in her world and gets stressed out. If the ears themselves are the problem, you may see or smell a discharge. Finally, dogs will tilt their heads to increase their ability to hear out of one ear or the other and while it is so darned cute, she might just be trying to hear better. Still in doubt? Clap your hands, call her name, or rattle your keys from behind her to see if you get a reaction, but don’t let visual cues like the reaction of another animal give you away.  You might also try different levels of the noise to see if perhaps deafness is on the horizon, but not noticeable yet.

The Bottom Line . . .

Even though I know Winston can’t hear me, I still talk to him. I think he may catch my “vibes” or learn to read lips or (more likely) I just forget he’s deaf. Combined with his almost total blindness, I’m training Winston and myself to communicate through touch and smell. I touch the left side of his face for “come”, pat him on the side for “Good job!,” stroke forward on both sides of his face to have him put both paws on the side of the bed for an assist up, and give him a gentle butt boot to “Move forward so I can close the door.” This is a pretty good start for us. I think he may even be getting some of them! Or that could be wishful thinking on my part . . . At any rate, I touch him as often as I can to reassure him I’m there and let him sleep in a privileged place between my feet under the desk when I’m working. As I mentioned in my post, “Living with a Blind Dog,” Winston could probably see and hear when he was a puppy, but something happened along the way. He gets along fine and even will play on my “pity” with pathetic whining (which he can’t hear) for me to lift his 80-pound chunk-a-body up to the bed. Once. And that’s all.  Two times, tops. I love my blind and deaf bulldog so much and he loves me, and since deafness in dogs isn’t connected to any other health problems, we should have years left to be together.


How do you discipline a deaf dog? Like I said, I don’t. But if you have a chewer or nipper or any other undesirable behavior, famous dog trainer Cesar Millan says that he rarely uses his voice even with hearing dogs other than a clicker or a “tsk”.  He says to use hand signals, body language, and facial expressions.  disapproval.

If you think your hearing-impaired Good Girl doesn’t quickly learn to associate a frown and arms folded or shaking your head or some distinct hand expression like a wagging finger, watch her put on the guilty face; rolling her eyes, dropping her chin, and looking away. Be careful though. I have worked with hearing-impaired children and if they aren’t looking at you, you essentially disappear. You might want to insist your deaf dog look at you when you show

My friend just got a deaf dog. What toys can I give her for a Happy Adoption Day gift? The same ones you give a hearing dog, for the most part. Of course, anything that chimes or jingles as the attraction is pointless, but balls, tug ropes, stuffed animals, and chew toys with treats are fine. Think about balls that vibrate, blink, move around by themselves, feel different in the mouth, and those that have a crunchy bounce back. Then there’s always that all-time favorite – the laser pointer!

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