We always get asked, “Can you train a deaf dog?” The great news is, the answer is, “Yes!” We have trained many deaf dogs, and it’s really not much more different nor difficult!
Why are dogs deaf ?
Deafness can affect dogs of any breed, age or colored coats but there have been many studies into the fact that white coated dogs are more likely to have problems with their hearing. Hearing loss is caused by sounds being intercepted on the way to the brain so that they are not heard. Usually when sounds enter your ear they hit your eardrum which then vibrates causing waves which cause a change in pressure. When this pressure occurs the hair cells in the cochlea move which causing the hearing nerves to send a message to the brain.
The reason dogs with white coats are affected more than other fur colors is because of a gene they carry called piebald. This is the gene that gives them their white coat and in many cases blue eyes. It is also responsible for a lower amount of melanocytes which are the cells that make color pigmentation. The ability for the dog to hear is because of cell layers that are present in the inner ear. The cells are created from the same source of stem cells that pre-determine fur color which means that as well as a dog lacking color they can also have hearing problems.
There are also around 85 different breeds that are more likely to have problems with their hearing due to their genetics but the most likely cause of a dog being unable to hear well or at all is because of the piebald gene. Other genes that are more likely to indicate a possibility of hearing problems include the merle gene; this gene is also responsible for blue eyes but a merle coat too. Blue eyes are not actually classed as a color; they are instead seen as a lack of pigmentation that depicts the eye’s color.
The only way to be sure that your dog’s hearing is as good as it should be is to have a BAER test which a veterinarian professional will be able to provide. The test involves attaching electrodes to the dog’s skull which will allow the professional to check for the activity when certain noises are made. When your dog hears a noise and is not affected the brain activity will correlate, however if the electrical activity is lacking it will show that the dog has auditory problems. The waves that appear as part of the test will be able to tell you whether your dog can hear and if not the severity of hearing problems.
Most dog owners whose dogs are affected by the piebald gene will find that hearing problems will be prevalent in the first 6 months of life. If you do think that your dog has hearing problems you should consult a vet for further testing to help you to take further steps to help your dog to lead a normal life and improve communication in other ways so that they can follow simple commands even if they are visual rather than auditory.