Some pets are born with a congenital defect that causes deafness but
most experience a loss of hearing gradually over time as they age. You
will notice this in your older pet when he or she does not react to
everyday noises, does not respond to the sound of a favorite squeaky toy
or does not react when you call his or her name.
In dogs, hearing loss is often expressed as a startle reaction,
especially when they've been awakened suddenly. Always approach a
sleeping dog with caution and let family members know (especially
younger children) to gently and slowly awaken an older dog who may lunge
out to a perceived "attacker" with an accidental nip or bite.
If your hearing impaired pet is a cat, only let them outside in a safe
enclosed area so they cannot run out into the street where they may be
in danger of being hit by a car that they can no longer hear. If this is
not possible, provide your older cat with a variety of interesting
interactive toys to help her pass her time safely indoors. you may also
consider getting your older cat a companion.
The use of hand signals will greatly enhance your dog's safety when
walking outdoors. Start by walking in an area that is relatively free of
traffic and don't bring something that might distract you, like your
cell phone. While she is on leash (and for safety's sake, always keep a
hearing impaired dog either on leash or contained), start by asking your
dog to look at you by gently touching her as you walk. When she is
paying attention, smile broadly and pet her to let her know that this is
what you want. She will not be able to hear you say, "Good girl!" so
acknowledge her immediately with a different form of sincere, positive
You can start your hand signal training by pointing in the direction you
want your dog to go. As soon as she does this, again, immediately
praise her. You can use a hand up to indicate that you want her to stop
and wait. Be consistent with your signals and she will soon begin to
look to you for cues. If you need to gently tug on her leash to show her
what you're asking or to get her attention, that's fine too. The goal
is to have you work together as a team - she will be relying on you to
keep her safe.
There is no reason to curtail your older dog's walks even if he is
experiencing a loss of hearing. Be patient and persistent and make it
your personal goal to become a bonded team that can enjoy your time
together in the great outdoors.
Deborah Dobson, FizzNiche Staff Writer