Jump to content

Training a Deaf Dog


Recommended Posts

Stussy is now 14. About 4 - 5 months ago she lost her hearing suddenly. She was checked by our vet who said this can happen in some old dogs. Her eyesight is fair still but to get her attention from a distance you have to go large with your gestures! She is still very active and still capable of learning new things (like how to open the baby gate so she can get to the bin!), using a doggy door for the first time, stairs and ramps to get up and down from furniture.

 

She is really struggling without her hearing and of course she has Sundowners and aspects of CCD (doggy dementia) although she has not been diagnosed with that. Without her hearing she is barking a lot more for attention and to find where her peeps are. With the dementia she often leaves our side and goes looking for us, which results in her just standing in the yard and barking till someone comes. And it doesn't matter what I try to get her attention when she's sleeping I always frighten her.

 

So I'm wondering if anyone else has a similar experience and has any info they can offer me regarding sign language options for a deaf dog with less than perfect eyesight but who is still trainable? In particular I'd like to find ways to sign come, leave, good dog/ok, no/naughty dog, walks/car/outings, treats/food and maybe even something to indicate when I'm going out without her as she finds that very confusing. All in a larger than life way so she can see without being super close. She knows hand signals for everything else but these ones were always more verbal commands. I really think she misses knowing what's going on and is living in an unpredictable world at present.

 

Here is my Silly Sausage.

246799458_10159384213997412_1831799693520225906_n.jpg

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gosh Stussy is adorable :love:
 

Do you know how her eyesight is affected? Is it cataracts or glaucoma or just myopia or all? Each effect vision a little differently.

 

I found not having bright lighting best. With cataracts, lighting - sunshine or artificial, can create a halo, scattering affect and be confusing and distracting. So I scheduled training sessions for times and places where the light wouldn’t be bamboozling.

 

Glaucoma reduces field of vision, cutting out the peripherals, so you need to try to be in their direct line of vision.

 

It may also be that one eye is better than the other, so you want to appear on that side.

 

If all over problems, big gestures can be helpful than small ones as you’ve found. And making sure you aren’t too far away.

 

If you haven’t seen an ophthalmologist and one is available to you, that might be worthwhile in case eye drops would help retain/restore vision and comfort.


Training wise, check out:

 

Deb Bauer // Your Inner Dog - trains deaf and blind dogs

 

Terri Hayward // Positive Animal Wellness - deaf dog specialist. If you’re on Facebook she also has a group ‘Deaf Dogs! Behaviour and Training’.


We had fun learning a little modified-for-our-purposes Auslan, ‘cause if you need to add visual cues why not?! In saying this, touch cues may be more useful if/when vision further deteriorates.


Keep up / start scent games to keep the brain engaged.

 

I never taught a sign for no/naughty, see   https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eo-yz4wMNlc


You’re probably across this, but there are medications, diets, supplements that can help slow dementia progression. Might be worth considering.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for all that info PK! She is getting close to needing medication for the dementia. Still manageable with supplements and diversion but only just. At the moment she only has Antinol Rapid for her arthritis and a tranquility supplement that I think Boronia put me on to to assist with the Sundowners. I'm pretty sure she has cataracts (they started a few years back). She still does well in minimal lighting and she can definately see bits of grated cheese on the cream tile floors! She is still very active but prone to a few accidents if her legs don't keep up. She has always been naturally inquisitive which leans towards naughty so leave and no/naughty commands are still necessary! I think my two main areas I'd like to communicate clearly is when I'm going out (and she is not coming with me) and when she is in the middle of the yard barking for someone to come and get her. She is no longer enjoying much touching unfortunately and when she is asleep she gets a fright from it but if I don't tell her I'm leaving the house she just runs into the back yard and barks for me (neighbours not loving that concept). She also gets confused about where we are in the house (or the shed) and stands in the yard and barks for us. It sets off another neighbour's dog and the neighbour between us has already had a grump about it. Apparently she has an irritating bark.

 

I think it is time for a full vet assessment so I know how to move forward and maintain what she has but after it was suggested I can see that sign language could be a great solution for her. She has a lot of FOMO (like her mum) and always wants to know what's going on and where everyone is. She's got to be in the loop! Not being able to suddenly hear seems to have resulted in other behavioural changes and a lack of confidence that I'd like to turn around as much as possible.

 

I never started any scent work with her but it is probably a good time to start. She is wanting like 4 meals a day now and I figure at least 2 of those could be be snuffle mat sessions! That would keep her busy for a bit!

 

Again, thank you for all the advice so I can start researching.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you Deeds!

 

We tried the Hills BD for 3 months and there was no noticeable difference so she is back on Canidae or Black Hawk now. Haven't seen the Bright Mind one so will go searching and give it a shot. Happy to try anything for her.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you have a Holistic Vet in Qld who does Chinese Herbal Medicine for dogs.  They could probably make some medication for your dog that would be more specific to her needs.  I have used the Chinese Herbal medicine in the past for various dogs with good results.  I don't think much of the Homeopathy .

 

Here is a list of Holistic Vets in Australia.  There are a couple in Qld.  https://www.ahvets.com.au/complete_list.php

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The cheese on the flour could be primarily scenting over sight.

 

The first step with deaf dogs is to teach them to frequently check-in, but her dementia and forgetting where you are may be a complicating factor. From having attention, you can then tell them what you would like them them to do.

 

Incidentally, you might find you have body language you’re not aware of that is giving cues. Like turning your body half away, crouching slightly, doing an arm gesture, walking backwards a little, when you want her to come.

 

Snuffle mat for meals sounds awesome!

 

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Deeds said:

Do you have a Holistic Vet in Qld who does Chinese Herbal Medicine for dogs.  They could probably make some medication for your dog that would be more specific to her needs.  I have used the Chinese Herbal medicine in the past for various dogs with good results.  I don't think much of the Homeopathy .

 

Here is a list of Holistic Vets in Australia.  There are a couple in Qld.  https://www.ahvets.com.au/complete_list.php

One of my vets is holistic and has worked with me before in that way so they don't push the harsher meds unless they see them as the best option. They are very supportive of trying a range of treatment options.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Too be perfectly honest her hearing would have been going prior to this  the reality is they learn to watch you closely and the humans over compensate during this time instead off stepping back and training senior life skills and modifications but then when it’s all gone it becomes OMG .

Part of this is normal old age behaviour .

 

 

Now it will be a case of vision and hearing both at there lowest and depending on how it’s smell is its may be in noise sensory overload .

 

I know this is no use now but we often tell our clients the importance off teaching dog old life skills before the big change hits and becomes even more confusing like mats,vibration and even being happy in a pen for safety .

 

The biggest factor you need to manage is summer and the dog getting lost outside if hot .

 

Often once there confused and lost there mud map they go around and around in circles and yes the bark can be very different .

 

Its important to try not reward the bark .

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting and useful info Dogsfevr. Never thought about it like that before. To be honest I was never much of a talker to my dogs and just gave hand and verbal commands. But then fostering shar pei who were often quite fearful I found myself talking calmly to them more as I couldn't always get close and often they lacked training to even know basic commands. But then when we foster failed Tempeh and an animal communicator said she would benefit from being talked to more (she was anxious about loads of stuff). The communicator was correct and I turned into one of those people who told my dogs everything! Now of course Stussy has no clue what I'm saying when I talk to her and she seems to find it very confusing - in her mind I just seem to be staring at her or going mad at her or something.

 

I'm sure her hearing was diminishing but whatever she still had just went suddenly. We saw the vet straight away and had it confirmed that it can happen like that. Luckily there is someone home most of the time but the good thing is if she sees us go out the front door she stays inside waiting for us to come home- no wandering outside that I am aware of (our good neighbours would let us know). And we always check the weather before leaving so they have options. She's not yet wandering aimlessly but since we got the workshop/shed built (a year ago) she seems to have developed some confusion on which 'house' we are in, so she stands in the yard between the two and concern barks until someone turns up and waves at her (we do have a big empty L shaped yard). Then she comes running all smiles. I don't want to be seen as rewarding her new strategy but I'm also not sure what else to do. Unfortunately I think I've been trying to make a game of it to reduce her anxiety, like we've been playing hide and seek. Do I just go out casually so she can see me rather than go out and beckon her to come to me? So I guess I'm not rewarding what she's doing if I let her know where I am without actually engaging? It's so hard because I want to comfort her because she seems so confused, but I also don't understand why she has suddenly become unsure about which part of the 'house' we are in. She can literally be laying in the same room as me, get up and go outside to her new spot and I hear her barking. That to me is like her nose not working either? Poor bugger. 

 

One good thing though if I go down the hand signals route is that Jonah is now 10 and we can teach him too so he might be better prepared. He already has one problematic eye that I make allowances for.

 

Thank you everyone for all the useful information. I really appreciate it and am gathering it all to work out the best approach.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, Little Gifts said:

Interesting and useful info Dogsfevr. Never thought about it like that before. To be honest I was never much of a talker to my dogs and just gave hand and verbal commands. But then fostering shar pei who were often quite fearful I found myself talking calmly to them more as I couldn't always get close and often they lacked training to even know basic commands. But then when we foster failed Tempeh and an animal communicator said she would benefit from being talked to more (she was anxious about loads of stuff). The communicator was correct and I turned into one of those people who told my dogs everything! Now of course Stussy has no clue what I'm saying when I talk to her and she seems to find it very confusing - in her mind I just seem to be staring at her or going mad at her or something.

 

I'm sure her hearing was diminishing but whatever she still had just went suddenly. We saw the vet straight away and had it confirmed that it can happen like that. Luckily there is someone home most of the time but the good thing is if she sees us go out the front door she stays inside waiting for us to come home- no wandering outside that I am aware of (our good neighbours would let us know). And we always check the weather before leaving so they have options. She's not yet wandering aimlessly but since we got the workshop/shed built (a year ago) she seems to have developed some confusion on which 'house' we are in, so she stands in the yard between the two and concern barks until someone turns up and waves at her (we do have a big empty L shaped yard). Then she comes running all smiles. I don't want to be seen as rewarding her new strategy but I'm also not sure what else to do. Unfortunately I think I've been trying to make a game of it to reduce her anxiety, like we've been playing hide and seek. Do I just go out casually so she can see me rather than go out and beckon her to come to me? So I guess I'm not rewarding what she's doing if I let her know where I am without actually engaging? It's so hard because I want to comfort her because she seems so confused, but I also don't understand why she has suddenly become unsure about which part of the 'house' we are in. She can literally be laying in the same room as me, get up and go outside to her new spot and I hear her barking. That to me is like her nose not working either? Poor bugger. 

 

One good thing though if I go down the hand signals route is that Jonah is now 10 and we can teach him too so he might be better prepared. He already has one problematic eye that I make allowances for.

 

Thank you everyone for all the useful information. I really appreciate it and am gathering it all to work out the best approach.

It’s very easy to understand .

You go to the fridge to grab something then forget what it was .

You look at the fridge for answers and either remember or think bugger and shut the door .

 

Think realistically this is a very old senior dog .

When it comes to using the nose remember this dog has no vision or hearing and yes often the smell goes which makes it difficult.

 

Also factor if smell is there the dog can be hit with a sensory overload,
Perfumes,air fresheners so many smells that can be confusing .

Just keep it simple if barking just walk out and distract but reward when following .If enjoying food reward even with a food trial to keep that function there .

When all goes it’s hard as they struggle to find the water bowl .

 

They often don’t want to be touched as it’s overwhelming again when you can’t figure it out  what’s normal anymore .

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've changed my touch to be very gentle now and that has worked. I'm also restricting to shoulder area. She was actually avoiding me and I had no idea why but I think my old way of interacting with her was just too rough for her old lady body. She'll sit on the lounge or sleep on the bed again with me now and I try to just leave her be. Just gentle rubs on her inner thighs (her sweet spot) when I can't help myself.

 

With her outside barking this afternoon (twice) I just walked out like I was doing something else and she saw me and came running. Once she came running over to me and once she got close I acknowledged and rewarded her then she followed me straight back inside.

 

And that fridge analogy is a great one. Luckily we don't use any personal perfumes or air fresheners but I am going to start kind of assessing our environment for odours that might be distracting. I brought flowers in tonight and now I'm thinking that could be confusing. I'll just keep working my way through it and keep doing what we can to make things easier for her.

 

Thank you for your advice and expertise!

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My first Border Collie went profoundly deaf and my 10-year old Border Collie can only hear very loud noises. My little poodle rescue was blind and deaf for several years, and coped amazingly well.

 

My dogs have all been taught the traditional Obedience signals, including “star-jump arms” as a recall signal. I’ve found they can see signals like that at a distance, if they’re looking. However, my first Border Collie became very skilled at looking away from signals he didn’t want to see.:rofl: To avoid that, I suggest rewarding Stussy each time he looks back at you, so that he gets in the habit of doing so.

 

I find it sometimes helps to think in terms of using cues rather than signals to trigger the behaviour you want because that includes environmental and situational cues, which opens up more training options. For example, if you rewarded him with a treat each time he returned inside, you might be able to turn standing outside into a cue for returning inside. You might need to set him up for success at first by walking past him then back inside so that he’ll follow you, but you want to make the cue independent of you as quickly as you can. I find barking is a habit that can easily become self-reinforcing, so I would work hard to interrupt the behaviour chain before the barking starts.

 

It may also be useful to teach Stassy to recognise a flashing torch as a recall signal. 

Edited by DogsAndTheMob
  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 20/11/21 at 4:10 PM, Little Gifts said:

I've changed my touch to be very gentle now and that has worked. I'm also restricting to shoulder area. She was actually avoiding me and I had no idea why but I think my old way of interacting with her was just too rough for her old lady body. She'll sit on the lounge or sleep on the bed again with me now and I try to just leave her be. Just gentle rubs on her inner thighs (her sweet spot) when I can't help myself.

 

With her outside barking this afternoon (twice) I just walked out like I was doing something else and she saw me and came running. Once she came running over to me and once she got close I acknowledged and rewarded her then she followed me straight back inside.

 

And that fridge analogy is a great one. Luckily we don't use any personal perfumes or air fresheners but I am going to start kind of assessing our environment for odours that might be distracting. I brought flowers in tonight and now I'm thinking that could be confusing. I'll just keep working my way through it and keep doing what we can to make things easier for her.

 

Thank you for your advice and expertise!

The key is you will have plenty of highs and lows .

 

Everyone will approach things different some will look for miracles to help ,for us we have a cut offline where we accept there old and just modify how there day works  and enjoy each day .

 

We just manage lowering stress ,the biggest change is really what the humans struggle with like backing off with touch and cuddles  and confusion and dumbing down moments that are a big deal for the dog with confidence.

Amazingly when we adapt sooner than later it really works well for the dog and the human .

 

 

Ask any old age person the one thing that annoys them and the answer is often “over fussing” 

The dog is often the same it just can’t verbally say it but watch there body language and there telling us .

 

And yes each dog can be soooo different .

We have had 3 very needy seniors and the rest no changes just slowing down ,it can be a big eye opener when you get a needy senior or one that struggle’s .

Edited by Dogsfevr
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you to you both. It feels like this time around with an oldie was so different to last time. Then I just responded as things changed but this is a different dog with different strengths, needs and weaknesses so I want to keep a few steps ahead and make transitioning a bit easier for her. She loves life and everything about it but has definately lost some confidence and developed a sort of vulnerability over the past couple of months. Safe and happy is what I'm aiming to maintain for as long as possible.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I had a deaf foster puppy, I was always forgetting he was deaf, and would call him... lol! When he was asleep and I needed him awake, I would tap on my wooden floor softly so he could feel the vibration, and it didn't startle him.

 

My friend's oldest dog has lost most of her hearing now, so we clap, tap the floor, or use deeper speaking tones to alert her that her attention is required... she can feel the vibrations of those and responds well so far.

 

Other old dogs I've had to move from one place to the other responded well to me hitting my thigh rhythmically so they could follow the vibration...

 

I have no real experience with dementia as an added complication though.

 

T.

Edited by tdierikx
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If there is one word of praise that she loves beyond measure you might like to add a sign to that when you say it. I regretted not doing that. Being told he was clever made Malcolm light up.

 

In any case, I kept talking. I figure talking changes our facial expressions and body language, all of which dogs read. And who knows about dogs but I think if my loved one’s faces just went blank (and I could see them even with limited vision) I might find that sad? :shrug: 

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Max was deaf the past 18 months before we said goodbye and I kept talking to him. Even if it was soothing chatting when we were in the car heading to the vet I still think it helped. He couldn't hear me but that kind of chatter often changes your own heart rate or blood pressure etc and I'm sure they know that.

 

I found that because he knew the hand signals for come (not that he wandered far), sit, drop/chill, wait, look etc he was ok. He did have dementia (the vivitonin didn't seem to help him much) and what I found was that because he couldn't hear me if I was walking past or behind him he would startle. So I started tapping the floor with my toes when I was close to him. He also would get stuck and waving my foot within a metre of his face helped him remember that someone was there and help the confusion a bit. No pressure to walk on or get out of being 'stuck' just that there was someone present and that he wasn't alone in that moment - though I suspect the seeing of the foot waving triggered his nose to go who is that? Which helped him to get unstuck and shake off the CCD moment. Treats didn't but foot nearby did. 

 

I also changed the way I petted him, and always came to touch him via the chest so it was gentle and he could see me. I found him likely to startle if we were cuddled and I started stroking his ears or shoulder from behind.

 

It can be such an honour to help them find ways to feel safe and supported when navigating a world which has changed for them so much.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's incredibly hard! I've gone from having this tough nut who hated personal space and loved everything and every one to one that still wants to be who she is but who feels frail and vulnerable within herself and doesn't know where to turn. Things that never caused her angst are now real fears and she doesn't know how to calm them. So many things she used to take for granted now frighten her. But having said that her good times far outweigh the bad stuff still. She spends her days chasing birds from the yard and following Jonah everywhere (she doesn't want to miss out). She still loves her walks but is getting bowled over at the dog park now with her back legs so weak and having lost weight (she has to be in the thick of the scrum) and gets sensory overload after about half an hour and tilts towards crazy (off home we go!). She prefers my sister over me when she is distressed but still sleeps with me again part of the night. Loves her food, still trying to get to the compost for a snack!

 

I know things will continue to change and possibly deteriorate but she's been such a great dog for me and all the fosters who have come through here that I want her life to be as pleasant and rich as it can be despite the changes. So I just want to do what I can to be there for her now when she has been there for all of us. One the hardest aspects for me is she did love verbal praise and being touched/manhandled/kissed. And she got praised a lot because she was still deep down a very naughty and easily distracted dog. So she can't hear any of that at the moment and she is still not liking much touching so I feel that is an important chunk of comforting and joy she is missing. Hopefully I can find a way to turn that around.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...