How to Interact With a Hearing-Impaired Dog

Walking Dalmatian on leash
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Dogs with hearing impairments can cope remarkably well despite their disability, often making up for loss of hearing by using their other senses, such as sight, smell and touch. However, while most hearing-impaired dogs live full and vibrant lives, these canines do face some unique challenges in their daily interactions. Even though a dog with a hearing impairment may be just as well socialized as any other dog, he can be easily startled and may react aggressively when scared.

How to Help Your Hearing-Impaired Dog

It’s crucial that you protect your hearing-impaired dog from frightening situations by carefully managing his environment. Diminished hearing makes it more difficult for a hearing-impaired dog to respond to a handler's verbal cues or to sense impending danger. A hearing-impaired dog should be leashed for walks since he won’t be able to hear voice commands or hazards like oncoming traffic. By the same token, a dog with a hearing impairment is less able to perceive dangers around the home, such as a car coming up the driveway, so he should always be either actively supervised, kept on leash, or contained in a fenced area. Your dog should also have a special note about his hearing impairment on his ID tags or collar, in the event that he is lost.    

More important, though, a hearing-impaired dog cannot readily perceive people or dogs approaching him; this can cause him to be easily startled and to react defensively or aggressively. You will need to be constantly aware of your dog's surroundings so that you can warn him by directing his gaze toward approaching people or dogs. You will also need to warn other people about your dog's disability; one strategy is to have a bandanna made for your pet that says, “I’m deaf — approach with caution,” or “I’m deaf — please ask before you pet me.” This visual warning will hopefully deter friendly people from scaring your pet with an unanticipated greeting.

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