Taking on blind or deaf dog has its rewards
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By Mickey Zeldes  January 17, 2014 12:00 am

If your pet lives long enough, most end up with some disability – hearing or vision loss, diabetes or some other issue. We tend to adapt with them to the new limitations because they come on slowly, and it just takes small adjustments. Walk more slowly, not move furniture around, talk loudly before touching a sleeping animal – we learn how to make life easier for our animals. Some animals, however, are born with disabilities, and it takes a special person to adopt one of these animals. In the right home and with understanding owners, these animals can thrive and live a full, happy life.

Taking on a blind or deaf dog is not for everyone. Certainly, there are differences, and we would be lying to say there weren’t. But they are not really huge or difficult obstacles. The main thing is these animals should not be allowed off-leash except in their familiar backyard – so they are not dog park candidates. Other than that, it’s a simple matter of making some accommodations in the house for their disability.

I haven’t lived with a deaf dog, but I would imagine that the hardest part is you can’t make a verbal (long distance) correction – everything is more visual or tactile. We are used to using our voices to get our pets attention, warn them away from things and give praise. While deaf dogs can be taught hand signals, they have to be looking at you first. Getting a deaf dog’s attention if facing away from you is the tricky part, and that is where a vibrating collar comes in handy. It’s like calling his name and cues him in to look at you for a signal. The other cautionary note is to be careful not to startle a deaf dog when he’s sleeping, as they might react protectively.

Blind dogs need their environment to remain as stable as possible – not fair to rearrange the furniture often or leave things out of place. It’s amazing, though, how well they adapt with their keen sense of smell and hearing. Some people don’t even realize when they meet a blind dog that he has this disability. Of course, it helps that the animal doesn’t dwell on it or indulge in self-pity.

There can be advantages to having a deaf dog – fireworks, for example, never bother them. They can sleep through loud parties and a crying baby in the home. They’re not quite as useful for protection, but once they notice an intruder (and their other senses are still very powerful), they can do a good job at being menacing. Deaf dogs can usually live harmoniously with other animals, as they rely more on body language to communicate than verbal cues. Blind dogs can find it more challenging to be introduced to new dogs because of that limitation.

All of this is to prep you for a pitch about Pip. Pip is a handsome, big, loveable, friendly but deaf pit bull that has been here for quite a while waiting for a family willing to take on a special needs animal. He has a solid, good temperament and just loves everyone he meets. He gets along well with big dogs and has many playmates here at the shelter. 

Pip has been out at adoption events with children and crowds of people and does fabulously well. He loves playing fetch and splashing around in our kiddie pool and would be great with some older children. Because he is going to take some extra training and requires some attention to get acclimated to a new home, we are recommending that he be the only pet.

Living with Pip, or any deaf dog is really not that big a deal. Come by, meet him and see what a truly nice dog he is. Won’t you open your heart to this special dog? 


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at mzeldes@rpcity.org.

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