Tips for Training a Deaf Dogs

Our canine companions are wonderful creatures to have to enrich our lives. In return, we wish to do the same for them; especially if they have some unique health traits, such as deafness.

While some dogs can be born deaf, others may lose their hearing due to a medical condition (this can happen at any age). Some may lose it simply due to old age; the ability to hear sounds just isn’t quite like it used to be. Whether young or old, though, deaf dogs can live perfectly normal lives! They just need to have a specially dedicated owner to work with them.

Start Training
Positive reinforcement/reward training is absolute key when working with a deaf dog. To start training your dog, it is important to first and foremost be able to get your dog’s attention and to maintain it. You can get their attention with a wave in front of their face, thumping your fist on the floor to create a vibration or by touching them gently. Make sure to touch them in the same location on their body as to not confuse them between attention touch and affection touch.

Training Tools
There are some special training tools one can use for training sessions that aren’t the typical clickers and whistles and such that are used in typical obedience training. Collars that produce a light, gentle vibration are wonderful tools to be able to get your dog’s attention, especially when they are not within arm’s reach. Be aware that using a shock collar is not the same as a vibration collar and should not be used for these training purposes, as it does not fall into the positive reinforcement/reward training method.

Training Techniques
With a deaf dog, one of the most helpful behaviours, and one to work on first is to reinforce heavily for eye contact. Getting a deaf dog’s attention is not impossible; it just takes a bit of work! Developing a “check-in” behaviour is essential. Each and every time that your dog looks at you, you should mark and reinforce this behaviour (referring back to the positive/reward training method).

Now, since your dog cannot hear a click or a marker/praise word, teaching them a hand signal that means they did something good is quite crucial. Don’t worry; you won’t have to go out and learn sign language (unless you want to!). You can also make up your own signals as long as they are distinct and consistent (consistency is highly important for any form of training). Many trainers will use a simple thumbs up to signal a job well done. You can condition your dog to this by giving the signal and rewarding with a treat (positive reinforcement). Soon your dog will understand that thumbs up means treat!

Another vital part of communicating with a deaf dog is teaching a recall. Safety first, though! It is recommended to start with working on longer-distance recalls in fenced areas or with a long leash. However, as with any behaviour, you will want to start training in close proximity and in a low-distraction environment. Move away, at first just an inch at a time, and then signal with a visual cue for your dog to come to you. Mark movement toward you and be sure to reinforce (positive reinforcement training!) as the pup arrives where you are. As with any recall, slowly build distance and eventually work in some distractions to further advance your dog’s recall skills.

How to Prevent Startling Your Deaf Dog:
It is an important step that many owners might not think of! Non-hearing dogs are often startled or scared by things suddenly appearing, or a person is touching them since they cannot hear the approach. To reduce startling your dog, it is an important thing to work with your dog on desensitization. To desensitize your dog to touch, this means to start by always touching them in the same location. Each time you touch to offer a food reward (There’s that positive reinforcement training method again!). Initially, start by being in sight of your dog, and then once your dog is comfortable with this exercise, move to be out of your dog’s sight when you touch them.

Owning a deaf dog can be very rewarding with the proper knowledge, patience, and – you guessed it – positive reinforcement training! There are many resources available, as well as deaf dog support groups that can offer many helpful tips. With the right training, your deaf dog can do anything a dog with hearing can do. There are many deaf dogs in performance events, including obedience, agility, flyball and scent work. So don’t feel that your dog’s inability to hear will impact their lives negatively and make them feel left out.

Information sourced from Americain Kennel Club.

Written by: Brittany Waselenchuk, RAHT

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My Dental Cleaning by Carrots the Clinic Cat

I recently had my check-up with Dr. B, and he mentioned that I have a lot of tartar on my teeth and something called a resorptive lesion. I had been noticing that my mouth wasn’t feeling so clean, and it did hurt when I ate my kibble. Dr. B recommended that I have my teeth cleaned, and they would remove the bad teeth at the same time so that I wouldn’t be in any more pain. I was pretty nervous as it was my first time, but I see the staff here do it almost every day, so I figured I could be brave for one day. I asked the Techs to take pictures during my dental so that I could show you all that happens, and hopefully, you wouldn’t be so nervous if you need a Dental too! The first part was the worst part. The girls forgot to give me dinner the night before my procedure and then they didn’t give me breakfast either! I tried to explain to them, but they said it wasn’t safe to eat before you go under anesthetic. My stomach was saying otherwise, but the girls wanted to make sure my dental cleaning was as safe as possible. This is why they did blood work on me a couple of days before my procedure, as well. They started by giving me an injection in my hind leg to make me feel a bit sleepy, and it also offers some pain control. They let me relax for a little bit in a kennel before they brought me out to the dental table. My front leg was shaved, and a catheter was put into my vein. The clippers tickled, and the catheter poke wasn’t too bad, but then they put a whole bunch of tape on my leg to keep it in place. The tape was the worst part because I knew they’d be ripping it off later! The tech then checked my vitals to make sure everything was good. She then told me I was going to feel sleepy. She gave me an injection through the catheter in my front leg. Boy was she right, sleepy I got! I tried to keep my eyes open, but they just kept getting heavier and heavier. Now what happened next is a bit foggy, but I went into a nice deep sleep. During my sleep, the tech placed an endotracheal tube into my trachea (orange tube in the photo). This was to ensure I could breathe the entire time and so that water and debris couldn’t go into my lungs. The tube is hooked up to oxygen and a gas anesthetic to make sure I stay asleep for the entire procedure, as well. She also put gauze in the back of my throat for extra protection. She then cleaned my teeth with an ultrasonic scaler. It makes a high pitched noise, so I was glad I was under so I couldn’t hear it. My teeth were cleaned above and below the gum line. Apparently, tartar can build up down there too. The tech told me it’s similar to when she goes to the dentist, but she’s allowed to stay awake since she doesn’t bite the dental hygienist. I’m sure there are some humans that do bite, though! Then the tech looked closely at all my teeth and wrote down anything important on my chart. She also put a probe down between my gums and each tooth to ensure there aren’t any large pockets that could cause me issues. Big pockets are great spots for bacteria and tartar to hide, and I sure don’t want any of those anymore. Luckily I didn’t have any fractured or broken teeth and no big pockets. They did find two teeth that were resorptive lesions. These were the culprits causing me some discomfort, so they had to be extracted. Dr. B asked the girls to x-ray these teeth to see how much damage there was underneath the gum line so that he would know how to remove them. We recently upgraded to digital dental x-rays, and I was lucky to be one of the first to test it out. You can see in the photo my x-ray on the laptop. The roots of those teeth were all eaten away, so Dr. B did a crown amputation. He told me that it means just the top of the tooth that you can see is removed as almost all of the tooth below the gums were gone. He then sutured the extraction sites closed so that they would heal well and to prevent food and debris (from me grooming myself) from going inside and causing an infection. Once Dr. B was done, the tech double-checked that everything was nice and clean. She then polished my teeth with a minty paste. She didn’t let me pick my flavour of polish, but we don’t have fish flavoured anyways. She then put on fluoride that had to sit on my teeth for a bit and then it was all wiped off. The tech made sure that she wiped off all of the fluoride as it isn’t safe for me to swallow when I woke up. This is why pets have special toothpaste, and we can’t share with you humans. Once all the fluoride was wiped off my teeth, the tech made sure the gauze was out of my throat, and everything looked good. It was now time for me to wake up. They turn off the anesthetic gas so that I am just breathing oxygen, and I slowly came around. They don’t take out the endotracheal tube until I am awake enough to breathe on my own safely. This was when I started to remember again what happened. I woke up with a minty fresh mouth, but I was very confused. The girls tried to assure me that everything went well and that I was safe in their arms, but I was too confused. So, of course, I tried to wiggle about and figure things out for myself. Don’t they know I’m an independent cat? The tech held me safe until I was a little more with it even with my protest. I have to admit I was feeling the drugs for quite a while. They made sure I could walk and jump well before I was allowed to free roam the clinic again that night. They also made me a bunch of nice cozy beds on the floor around the clinic so that I wouldn’t have to jump up on anything, which was good because I was still feeling a bit off all night. For the next couple of days, the girls gave me a pain medication, which I hate to admit was delicious. I pretended that I was upset getting it, but boy was it chicken flavoured delight, and I made sure to lick every last drop off of my lips. Hopefully, by knowing what the process is, it will help you feel a bit less nervous about your dental cleaning, and if your humans have any questions about Dental cleanings or preventative measures, the staff here are always willing to discuss them.

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