What to expect when caring for a deaf dog

by | Dog Care |

Dogs, like humans, can experience varying degrees of disabilities throughout their lives, and while some are quite noticeable, hearing loss is one disability that can often go undetected in the onset. Generally, hearing loss is a gradual process brought on by aging, chronic ear infections or trauma. However, in some cases, dogs can be born with congenital deafness, a genetic issue, which, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual, tends to commonly affect breeds like Dalmatian, Bull Terrier, Australian Heeler, Catahoula, English Cocker Spaniel, Parson Russell Terrier, and Boston Terrier. 

Read more about ear infections in dogs on our blog. 

How do I know if my dog is experiencing hearing loss? 

Determining whether your furry companion is experiencing hearing loss or is simply a stubborn listener is the first step. Puppies who are born deaf tend to be slow learners and not respond to their names or other verbal cues. For aging pups, you might notice changes in their behaviour. For example, if your companion is typically waiting anxiously at the door for your arrival and, eventually, they start missing the excitement, chances are they aren’t hearing you arrive and are sleeping through the commotion.   

If you think your dog is experiencing hearing loss, try a few simple tests at home like rattling your keys or picking up a squeaky toy to gauge a reaction. It’s important that your furry companion cannot see the source of the noise as they can react to the visual cue and provide a false test result. If they fail to respond to the noise source, book an appointment with your veterinarian for a full examination. 

Can a deaf dog be trained? 

Dogs affected by hearing loss or born deaf are just like regular hearing dogs in every other way and can make great companions with proper training. Typically, deaf dogs are attuned to their surroundings and have sharp instincts. Since dogs tend to look at their humans for guidance, the main difference is that you’ll need to use hand gestures rather than using verbal cues. It doesn’t matter what gestures you decide to use for different cues, the important thing is to remain consistent and teach them to associate specific hand signals and body language with the desired behaviour.   

How to keep your deaf dog safe 

There are many things to consider when caring for a deaf dog and keeping them safe should be top of mind. Always keep your dog on a leash near busy streets as they can’t hear traffic approaching or the honking of horns. It’s also important to keep them leashed if you are not in a contained area, like a fenced backyard, since they can’t hear when you call them to come. Getting their attention can be tricky during the day, but at night, you might want to try flashing the porch light or using a flashlight. 

Waking your deaf dog also needs some consideration. It’s also important not to sneak up on your dog and startle them as they could bite by sheer impulse. If you are approaching them, try adding a little stomp to your walk so they can feel the vibration on the floor as you approach them.  

Is adopting a deaf dog right for you? 

Whether a dog is affected by hearing loss or not, the bottom line is whether you have the time to commit to training and caring for your new companion. Deaf dogs are just like hearing dogs and with dedication and consistency, live full and rewarding lives just like canines who can hear. If you are considering adopting a dog experiencing hearing loss, talk to an animal care expert at your local Ontario SPCA animal centre to discuss the dog’s needs and seek out the guidance of a positive reinforcement dog trainer with experience working with dogs with hearing loss. 

Find your local Ontario SPCA animal centre 

Visit ontariospca.ca/adopt to see our animals available for adoption. 


How is the Ontario SPCA funded?  

 The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society is a registered charity that relies on the generosity of our supporters to operate. The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society does not receive any government funding.  

What’s the difference between a Non-Profit and a Registered Charity?  

 Registered charities are charitable organizations, public foundations, or private foundations that are created and resident in Canada. They must use their resources for charitable activities and have charitable purposes.  

Non-profit organizations are associations, clubs, or societies that are not charities and are organized and operated exclusively for social welfare, civic improvement, pleasure, recreation, or any other purpose except profit.