By: Christina Lee – Deaf Dogs Rock –

We get many questions about deaf dogs here at but lately we’ve been getting a lot of questions about older dogs going deaf. First, I want all of our readers with older dogs to know when an older dog starts going deaf it is not painful (unless of course there is an ear infection involved). Second, a good rule of thumb in noticing your senior dog might be going deaf is if you notice your dog not reacting to door bells, other dogs barking, sirens or things your dog has always reacted to in the past but is not reacting to now. Another sign your older dog might be going deaf is if you feel your dog is sleeping heavier than normal and does not wake up to noises in your home.

Your dog may also seem startled when you try to wake him/her up from a deep sleep. If you suspect your hearing dog might be going deaf then try standing behind your dog to test the dog’s hearing by clapping your hands or jingling a set of keys. If your dog’s ears don’t move, twitch or the dog’s head doesn’t turn towards the sound you are making, then there is a good chance your older dog has probably gone deaf.

Photo courtesy of Alicia Boomershine – Max is 13 years old and has also gone deaf over the past few years.

If you think your senior dog has gone deaf, then you need to see a Veterinarian as soon as possible to rule out an ear infection.

The good news is older deaf dogs are very easy to train with regards to learning sign commands. In fact, they are probably already reading many of your visual cues. Since I have two younger deaf dogs and three hearing dogs, all my dogs know sign commands just from watching me give my two deaf boxer dogs sign commands. Sometimes I even test my hearing dogs with signs commands without saying a word just to see if they will follow the signs. They will usually go ahead and do whatever it is I am asking just by using the correct sign.



It is important for dog owners to incorporate hand gestures in their dog’s training so that all the dogs in the family learn commands by voice and hand signals. This way if both auditory and visual commands are used when the dogs are being trained, it won’t be such a big deal for an older dog to make the transition from hearing to deafness as the dog ages.

If you find your senior dog has gone completely deaf and you haven’t already been training with sign commands, then by all means go back to using a treat based positive reinforcement training (using treats, toys or praise as a reward) along with a sign command. Once you get started, you will be amazed at just how fast your senior dog will actually catch on to your new training methods when using sign commands.

For more tips on training with sign commands, please go to our website

~ Christina Lee – Deaf Dogs Rock – www.deafdogsrock.