I got my 1st Italian Greyhound about 7 years ago. She was 3 months old and I named her Sophie. She has always been the most obedient, quiet little dog I’ve even owned. When she was about 2 years old I thought how nice it would be to get another one for her to play with, even though she was content to sit on her bed in the sunbeam with her paws crossed.
I saw a white Italian Greyhound who was born to 2 gorgeous show dogs. Out of that litter there were 2 white females; one could hear and one couldn’t. The breeder was looking for a special home for the deaf pup.
I emailed the breeder and told her I already knew sign language. I was a member of A.L.D.A. The Association of Late Deafened Adults. I was hearing but belonged to this group to brush up on my signing skills. I believed I had enough knowledge and patience to raise a deaf puppy since I knew signing and a lot about the deaf culture.
She was not the cutest pup I had ever seen. She was lanky and had a long snoot but her root beer colored eyes were soft and spectacular. They reached into my heart. I knew I could make her feel like she belonged.
I would like to share my experience in raising Bianca who I have had now for 6.5 years. I never looked at her differently. I didn’t pamper her nor did I excuse her wrong doings. I never felt badly for her not being able to hear. I didn’t even look at it as more of a challenge. We don’t really need to use as much language as we do with our hearing dogs. Dogs only grasp 3-4 words at best when they are said in a sentence. Hearing dogs respond to our facial and body language so I knew that the introduction of signs coupled w/ facial and body language would be the best method.
If you are new to raising a deaf dog, know that the dog is learning as you learn. Yes, at first getting their attention is paramount. 2 simple signs; look at me, and thumb up when they have will start to create your bond. But once that is established they will soon understand and look forward to you “talking” to them. You are their link to the world. The only challenge I foresee is being consistent but that is true of all dog training.
I have several sign language books. If you want one with the most signs it is called, The Comprehensive Signed English Dictionary. It is on Amazon.com. Some signs I have had to make up because they were not applicable and also she would not understand if I finger spelled a word.
One thing I have done at an early age is brush past her or lightly touch/stroke her when she was sleeping. I did this so the “startle factor” was removed. Deaf dogs get a bad rap about being startled and being aggressive due to it.
Photo of Bianca and her BFF Sophia
I suggest micro chipping. I also have another axillary clasp from her collar to the leash’s clasp just as a precaution if one breaks. I have purchased a vest that states, “I am deaf” not to point out she is but so people are aware by the gates in a dog park or when people want to pet her. It is our hands that talk to deaf dogs so she will look at oncoming people hands as they are talking and she moves her head around to watch the hands instead of enjoying being pet. I usually say let her smell the persons hands and then pat her sides. She loves that.
Photo of Bianca and Sophia
Bianca is very inquisitive and super smart. She watches my every move. I let her smell everything and then sign what it is. I sign to her as I would talk to a person. I even use sign language and my voice with Sophie so Bianca doesn’t get left out of extemporaneous speech as most deaf people do.
I find that education is the foothold to all of us. Whether we are human or animal, the more we know the more balanced, obedient and happy we are.
Bianca knows 60+ signs and numerous 3-4 word sentences. It is not difficult. You can do it too. ~ Molly