Deafness in our dogs can easily go unnoticed for quite a while. Sometimes, when we get older, we like to think that rules don’t apply to us any more and we like to do things our own way and the same is true of our dogs. I think it’s because of that fact that deafness is so often overlooked in our furry senior citizens.
So if the points raised in the Vlog above resonate with you and you think yes, perhaps my dog is becoming a little hard of hearing, what should you do? Well, first I would suggest a few little tests to determine exactly what he can, and cannot, hear. I would perhaps start with something as straightforward as calling him to you from another room (in our case simply opening a bag of crisps would get our pack to come in double quick time!)
You could try waiting until he is looking away and call his name very quietly, then get louder and louder and see how loud you need to speak before he can actually hear you – he may be really quite profoundly deaf and unable to respond to you at all unless he physically SEES you gesturing to him.
Try a lady’s voice, a child’s voice and that of a man. You may find he is more readily able to hear the higher-pitched voices of females and children over and above the deeper base tones of a male. With this in mind, try using a whistle too. This may be something that he can still hear even if he is a little further away from you.
And that brings me to another point. You need to remember that if he is really quite deaf and can’t SEE you, he may well have no clue that you are calling him. Add to that any possibility of him getting separated from you by a large distance or “spooked” so that he runs off, he will then be pretty much isolated and unable to find you again. (A great time to use your whistle if that is still working). If you do feel his hearing is very impaired, then it may be safer not to let him off the lead in areas where he could roam a long way from you or potentially be scared away, or chase wildlife taking him away from you.
A good idea, particularly if he is not yet completely deaf, is to start introducing hand signals into your daily communication with him. It is fairly easy to assign visual cues to these behaviours such as a simple flat palm towards your dog for a STAY, both arms wide open for a COME, your arm straight out in front of you with your palm down and then pushed towards the ground for a DOWN etc. These very simple gestures mean that you can still communicate with your friend (provided he is facing you) and in fact it is often the reason we don’t spot that the deafness is getting worse – dogs become very clever at reading us, our facial expressions, body language and hand signals so please don’t beat yourself up too much if you haven’t spotted the signs before now.
Remember, not all dogs who ignore a cue or command are naughty or disobedient …. some simply can’t hear you (though others, of course, are simply monkey-trousers!!! 😉 )