Tips for Training a Deaf Dog

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Even though they aren't able to hear commands, deaf dogs can be trained to obey their owners and commands. The process comes with its own set of challenges, requiring a bit of extra patience, but isn't outside the capability of most dog owners.

Some dogs are more prone to deafness than others: Dalmatians, Whippets, English Setters, and Jack Russell Terriers seem to have the highest instances of congenital deafness. But as dogs age, just like people, their sense of hearing often worsens over time.

For puppies who don't (yet) have hearing problems, consider incorporating hand gestures with voice commands when you train them. That way, if your dog loses its hearing as it ages, it is already familiar with the signs for the various commands.

Getting the Attention of a Deaf Dog

Before you can ask a dog to do anything, you must first have its attention.

There are a few things you can do to get a deaf dog to look at you, such as stamping your foot on the floor. Sometimes the vibrations coming through the floor are enough to turn your dog's attention in your direction.

Use a Flashlight

Some owners of deaf dogs use a flashlight to signal to their dog. You can train a dog to look at you by turning a flashlight on and off. Continue to do so until your dog turns to see where the light is coming from. As soon as the dog looks at you, reward it with a treat. The dog will soon learn that a flash of light means that it needs to look at you.

Use a Vibrating Collar

These electronic collars are different from those that give shocks to aid in training (which you want to avoid because they provide negative reinforcement to the dog). These simply vibrate when you press a button on a remote.

You can train a dog to look at you by pressing the button to make the collar vibrate, and continue doing so until your dog looks at you. As soon as the dog turns its attention to you, stop the vibrations and offer a treat.

Try Hand Signals

Many people train dogs by using hand signals for basic obedience commands. There is a standard hand signal most dog trainers use to teach each command, but you can also create your own hand signals.

Instead of giving a solely spoken command, you start off by making sure your dog's attention is on you, and then give the hand signal. You then train the dog to perform the command just as you would any other dog.

Use Sign Language

Most people communicate with their dogs for more than the basic commands, learning from the repeated connection between the words and the actions. You can communicate in a similar way with a deaf dog, but rather than using spoken words, you can use sign language.

Many owners of deaf dogs find it useful to learn a few simple words in American Sign Language and use them when doing everyday tasks with their dogs. You can also create your own signs for different words. As long as you and your dog know what the sign means, you should be able to communicate easily.


Reward Good Behavior

While many dogs find it rewarding to get verbal praise from their owners, this won’t be ideal for deaf dogs. Keep some small treats on hand to give your deaf dog positive reinforcement when it obeys a command correctly.

Once your dog has a good understanding of each command, you can use treats less frequently. Be sure in the early days of training when you're using a lot of treats that you cut back on your dog's meals accordingly.

Common Problems and Avoiding Them

Initially, deaf dogs may be startled by a person unexpectedly touching them to gain their attention, especially if they are touched while sleeping. Startling a dog can lead to it snarling or snapping out of fear, much in the same way a person might yell out if someone sneaks up and startles them.

Practice touching your dog very gently on its shoulder and back. Give it treats immediately following the touch. Try to do this often throughout the day, and soon your dog will learn that having someone touch them from behind means good things are about to happen.

A common mistake many new owners of deaf dogs make is not talking while they give their non-verbal commands. Just because the dog can't hear you doesn't mean you should remain silent; often your body language can appear unnatural if you give a command silently.

To ensure the visual commands come naturally to you and translate easily to your dog, go ahead and speak the words of a command as you perform the action.


Meet our featured deaf dog, Tater

The sweetest face!

The sweetest face!

Tater loves his owner, Amanda (who also is our office manager and technician).

Tater loves his owner, Amanda (who also is our office manager and technician).


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Related: We have more information under our dog health + client care tags.

8 Ways to Help a Blind Cat

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A blind cat can have a wonderful, happy life. It is not at all uncommon for pets, particularly older ones, to suffer vision loss. Normal cat vision is close to humans or perhaps just a little less. Pets have more problems focusing on near objects than people do, though, which is why your kitty may have some trouble seeing the last few kibbles in the food bowl.

Just as people over the age of 40 tend to need reading glasses, the same vision changes start to develop in almost all cats over the age of five. This normal change, called nuclear sclerosis, results in less flexibility of the lens, a hazy appearance, and less ability to focus on close objects. Pets still see pretty well despite the bluish tint to their eyes. Blind cats typically are still very happy. They continue to enjoy and remain engaged in life and the world around them—including their humans. Kitties do not need to see you to love you.


Your blind pet’s comfort level, safety, and emotional health are important. Follow these tips to keep the cat happy and comfortable.

Do not move food or litter box.

It is vital to keep the food, water bowls, litter box, and pet beds in the same spot, so your cat can easily find belongings.

Do some scent marking.

It may be helpful to “scent” important objects for the cat with strong odors such as peppermint to help its nose “see” what it is looking for.

Avoid rearranging the furniture.

Blind pets memorize and "mind-map" the house, and moving things around will confuse the cat. It is not at all unusual for a blind cat, for instance, to still insist on making floor-to-counter leaps with confidence as long as its memory remains fresh and accurate.

Safeguard dangerous zones.

Pad the sharp edges of furniture with bubble wrap until your cat learns to avoid the danger. Block off steep stairways with baby gates to prevent falls.

Use your voice to guide your cat.

Your pet’s personality and behavior may change a bit as vision fades. Some pets become more dependent on the owner, and act “clingy”—basically they will treat you as a guide, stand very close, and follow you around. Get in the habit of speaking to your cat when you enter or leave a room to help it keep track of your whereabouts.

Attach a bell to other animals in the house.

In multiple pet homes, another cat or dog may serve as a guide for the blind pet. Help your blind pet by attaching a bell or other noisemaker to the other animal's collar.

Create a safe spot in each room.

To avoid tripping over the pet that is always underfoot, provide a safe, comfy bed in each room. Very social cats may become standoffish once vision fades. They may want to avoid contact with houseguests to avoid being stepped on.

Don't startle your cat.

Blind pets also startle more easily, so always speak to your cat before petting him to avoid being accidentally nipped or swatted in reflex.


If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.


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Related: We have more information under our cat health tags.

Planning for Your Pet's Preventive Care Exam

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Spring is a bustling time or veterinarians. In small animal medicine, kittens start arriving. Dogs, too, even though they don’t have a seasonal aspect to their reproductive cycles. Spring is a popular time for people to want to add a puppy to the family.

With the weather warming up, preventive medicine gets a boost in the spring, too. Pet owners begin thinking more about heartworms, fleas, ticks, and parasites— which, of course, are often year-round risks.

What is my veterinarian trying to assess during an appointment?

First things first of a wellness visit is a health evaluation. This typically includes a thorough history including your pet’s breed, age, lifestyle, behavior, and diet, then a comprehensive physical exam, including a measuring of thins such as weight, temperature, pulse, and respiration rates. All of the information gathered will be used to further assess whether your pet may be ill.

Assuming your pet receives a clean bill of health at their wellness exam, the appointment is focused more on preventive care: what can be done to prevent your pet from actually getting ill, divided into categories:

  • Diagnostics (Heartworm testing, FELV/FIV testing, fecal examinations, etc)

  • Parasite control (heartworms, external parasites, and intestinal parasites)

  • Vaccinations

  • Identification (microchipping, rabies tags)

  • Reproductive counseling (spay/neuter)

  • Dental Hygiene

  • A plan for a follow-up or next routine visit

Your veterinarian will determine the appropriate approach for your pet in each of these categories based on the information gathered in the initial wellness exam, and go over their recommendations with you. This is also a good time to bring up any questions or concerns you have.

How often should I take my pet to the vet?

Adult pets should see their veterinarian at least annually to go over preventive care needs. Puppies and kittens require more frequent visits, usually every few weeks until they are several months old. If your pet hasn’t seen their veterinarian in awhile, consider spring to be your launch into taking the step of scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian today.


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Not Your Everyday House Pets

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Attempting to keep wild animals as pets is never a good idea. Safe neither for aspirant owners nor the animals themselves, some endanger human lives while others simply fail to thrive outside the wild.


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Lemurs, capuchins, chimpanzees, and baboons all fall into the primate category. They are cute and “childlike” but are not a substitute for human babies. Sure, they are often treated like babies by their owners putting them in diapers and strollers but they also act like babies, permanently, with all the messes and screaming included.

The biggest issue with pet monkeys is that they are prone to rampages without warning and, possessing sometimes shocking levels of strength while lacking what we comprehend as 'moral conscience' or reason, chances of effectively controlling such behaviors are slim. They may also bite their owners which is something the health department doesn't like. This is especially scary given the fact that they can transmit diseases like Hepatitis A and HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS.


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Cougars, lions, tigers, and leopards make up the majority of large cats kept as pets. They are strong and dangerous, to say the least. If you think you can just de-claw a lion like you did your little house cat then think again. De-clawing removes the entire last bone in each toe. If you remove the tips of the toes of a large cat, they are unable to properly walk because of their size and become paralyzed when the procedure is done incorrectly.

Large cats like tigers kill their prey by biting their throats, not by clawing them to death, so they are still dangerous even without claws. If the teeth don’t kill you, their crushing jaw pressure will. Removing dangerous body parts does not create a good pet.


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Venomous snakes could kill you with a single bite and there is most likely no anti-venom close enough to help you. Some cobras can also cause immense pain and blindness just by spitting their venom into your eyes. There are plenty of pet snakes available that do not produce venom so it is easy to stick with the safer species.

Extreme safety measures must be taken if these snakes are kept in a home, and if they do escape, you are endangering the lives of not only your family but your neighbors, too.


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Despite the fact that bears can weigh over 1500 pounds full grown, people still feel they are like cute and cuddly teddy bears. Bear cubs are appealing for many reasons but they don’t stay small for long. They will tower over you when they stand on their hind legs and can knock you over, or even kill you, with a swift blow of their paw.


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The coati (pronounced ko-wot-ee and sometimes referred to as a coatimundi) is a member of the raccoon family. Originally from South America, these omnivores require a large enclosure to roam about. They are extremely active and difficult to train. They have 38 to 40 sharp teeth, forage for their food, and require a lot of mental stimulation, much like a pet monkey.

Needless to say, even though they are kept as pets more and more, they are still wild animals that can deliver a pretty nasty bite.


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What carries Rabies and SARS, has sharp teeth, sleeps all day, and flies all night? Bats. The truth is, bats are extremely cute and intriguing, but a hands-off approach is best since there is the possibility of zoonotic disease and no realistic way to care for a bat in your home.

They can live over 30 years, hibernate for months in colder climates, and eat insects, fruit or blood at night (depending on the species). These little guys are better left outside so don't bring one of these cute critters into your home intentionally.


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Wolf and coyote ancestors were too wild to live alongside humans which is why domesticated dogs exist. Wolves and coyotes are still wild today and they act on their instincts. They hunt when they are hungry, play when they want to, and sleep the rest of the day. If they feel threatened, they will attack.

They can kill a full-grown moose and sense the sickest animal in a herd, even when that animal shows no symptoms. Like large cats and bears, they are far from domesticated and cannot be trusted. Wolfdogs have also grown in popularity as pets but are not much different from their pure wolf cousins, therefore, they too should be avoided.


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The American alligator can reach over 14 feet in length and kill prey as large as cattle. Most homes cannot accommodate such a large predator. These animals can cause serious infections from bites, causing limb amputations, knock you down with a whip of their tail while it breaks your legs, and even kill you with their bite force of around 2000 pounds. You don't want to see a male gator during mating season. These animals should be respected but not kept as pets.


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With the exception of the tiny Fennec fox (or the domesticated Silver/Siberian Fox), foxes are not recommended as pets. Red foxes can become very tame, but never fully trustworthy and are especially dangerous around children, just like other wild canines such as wolves. They are far from being domesticated and they also have a musky odor that is far worse than a ferret.

They have teeth like any other canine and if scared they may resort to their wild instincts and cause you or someone else harm. Also, most states will destroy a pet fox if a bite is reported because there is no vaccination protocol, despite being similar in size and relation to a dog.


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New Kitten and Puppy Care: Adoption​

 

So you’ve gained a four-legged family member. Now what? In this series, we will lay out what to expect when you’re expecting a new feline or canine friend to join the family. We continue this series with a topic close to our hearts: adoption, before & after. 

 

Are you ready to adopt?

Adopting an animal means committing to caring for an animal for its entire life. This could fall between 10 to 15 years for dogs and even up to 20 years for cats. When your lifestyles change, your animal will remain as part of your life. It also means fees that continue beyond a simple adoption fee. There’s food, veterinary care, spaying or neutering, and proper identification.

Having time for your pet is another factor. Dogs benefit from several hours of attention and exercise daily. Cats also love a good chase of a laser or catnip.

 

 

Which pet is right for you?

Consider the space a new pet will have to roam. Do you live in a cramped apartment and travel a lot? Consider a small dog or cat. Live with a family of 5 with a fenced in yard? Consider a larger breed of dog. Don’t hesitate to ask shelter staff for guidance to make for the perfect match.

 

Preparing your home.

From toxic foods left in bowls to pet-unfriendly plants and easy-to-get-into-trash bins, be sure to observe your home and make changes to assure your home is safe for a new canine or feline companion before their arrival.

 

Things to consider:

  • A dog or cat bed. Pets are inclined to keep off furniture if they have a designated bed.
  • Avoid vertical blinds, pooling drapery, ornate tassels, and long cords that are strangulation hazards.
  • If you adopt a cat, install high-quality metal screens so you can open a window without risking an escape.
  • If your new dog is not yet house-trained, consider temporarily storing away expensive rugs.
  • Provide your new feline friend with scratching posts and perches.
  • Use dog crates and gates to confine your new dog when absent from home until they are well-behaved.
  • Provide dogs with plenty of things they are allowed to chew on toys or bones, so he is less likely to find your shoe as an alternative.
  • Check that plants kept indoors or around your home are not poisonous to pets.

 

Local shelters include:

Last Chance, Cat Depot, Honor Animal Rescue, among many others listed in the latest issue of Pet Pages located in our lobby.

 

 

In this series

Don't forget to check out our previous piece on vet visits.


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Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for more recipes, articles, and clinic updates delivered to your inbox (here). Or, you can keep up to date by liking and following our Facebook page (here). We also have additional tips under our tips category (here).