Deaf dog

How to deal with a Deaf Pet

Our male Border Collie Speck is deaf.  Never having had a deaf pet before, it took me a bit of time to figure it out.

For starters he seemed very stubborn as a puppy.  He never listened to me.   Occasionally my husband’s deep and louder voice would get his attention.  He seemed willing to learn, but come when you called?  Not a chance.  Off doing what he wanted to do.  He didn’t always respond to unusual or loud noises.  when he sleeps, he really sleeps.

And then I walked up to him outside when his back was turned to me, and touched his butt…. and he was  quite startled.

The light came on.  He didn’t respond because he couldn’t hear.

So we started with hand signals.  A waving motion for come – it worked, as long as he was looking at us.  Signals to sit and shake worked. Flashing the back light off and on at night as a signal to come into the house – that worked most of the time.

I finally looked into training collars.  Some only deliver a mild electrical jolt to get a dog’s attention, and I didn’t want that.  But some vibrate.  A small remote control allows me to adjust the intensity of the vibration and hold a button for the duration I want or need.  It only took a day or two for him to get the idea: If my collar vibrates, I am supposed to find mom and go.

The only issue is that it needs to be charged once a week.  Without a vibration, he is back off in his own silent space again.

So what caused congenital deafness in dogs?  Most of the time the exact cause cannot be determined unless there was an even witnessed or  unless certain drugs used during pregnancy in a young puppy were used.

One of the most common reasons is linked to pigmentation – white hair patterns  (piebald – white and another color hair coats) and Merle patterns are often linked to deafness.  In fact, most white blue-eyed cats are deaf.  The deafness develops in young animals during the first few weeks of life when the ear canals are still closed. The blood vessels do not develop or degenerate, and without a blood supply the nerves also die off.  You can read the whole explanation at the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals page.

So, notice anything about my Speck above?  He has more white than the average Border Collie.  An all white head.   Beautiful long white eyelashes. Our other Border Collie has even more white, and two different colored eyes, but her hearing is supersonic.  Speck compensates by having great vision, and an exquisitely super sense of smell.  He can see something long before we do, and smell a bear long before it’s near the yard.  Even in his sleep, if he smells a bear through an open window he wakes up with a start.  Same response with donuts too.

The most common dog breed with deafness are Dalmatians (almost 30%), although deafness may occur in any breed. Other commonly affected breeds are Bull Terriers, Australian Cattle dogs, English Setters, English Cocker Spaniels and Boston terriers, according to OFA and Vetary website.

Signs of deafness listed on this website are:

  • Aggressiveness when playing with other puppies
  • Ignoring squeaky toys and other noisy toys
  • No response to loud noises such as doorbells, barking, whistling, clapping, and yelling
  • Abnormal amount of sleeping compared to other dogs
  • Jumping or snapping when woken or touched when not looking
  • Lack of activity
  • Ignoring commands
  • Unusual vocalizing
  • Confusion and disorientation

    Read more at:

I believe Speck lost his hearing more and more as he got older.  At age 8 now,  he hears limited loud noises, but if often off in his own quiet world.  I expect at some point he will be totally deaf.  That’s okay.  He doesn’t know any different, and we prepared to deal with it.  If he were a working dog it would be a problem, but a deaf dog can make a wonderful pet.  We wouldn’t give him up for anything.