Living With A Deaf Dog

Living With A Deaf Dog

Ten years ago our beloved Rebucca passed away at age 15 1/2. She was an adorable peke-a-poo who was as very much our daughter as if she were a real child. We were grief stricken and mourned for her for weeks. Finally, we were ready to add a new ‘child’ to our family. We finally found one year old Charlie, a rambunctious Tibetan Spaniel. Charlie was very outgoing and full of life. He brought life back into our household.

For the past ten years our life with Charlie has been fun-filled, full of joy and love. But Charlie is getting on in years and a few months ago we realized with sadness that he has become deaf. The vet said it was neurological deafness. His ears work fine but the nerves from his ears to his brain to tell him what he should be hearing doesn’t work so he hears nothing. We’re not sure how long the process of hearing loss took but one day we noticed that when he’d hear a loud noise he’d look up in the air and cock his head and then look in different directions as if he was trying to figure out where the noise was coming from and what it was. That must have been right before total deafness because a few days later he didn’t respond to noise at all.

I tested and tested Charlie hoping I was mistaken, that he wasn’t really deaf. I’d drop things behind him to see his reaction. Nothing. He didn’t bark at the doorbell. He didn’t tell me when the phone was ringing. He didn’t bark at the dogs on TV. And he seemed to start to go into depression. All he did was sleep. And he seemed to sleep very soundly. I could make all kinds of noise and walk all around him and he’d never notice.

We are all learning a new way to communicate.

So this is our Charlie now. He’s entered a new stage in his life. We are all learning a new way to communicate. I’ve been searching the net for deaf dog info and I’ve learned that dogs can learn the American Sign Language that deaf people use. Even though Charlie is old he can still learn new things. The old saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks just isn’t true. Charlie knows the signal for ‘no’ and ‘come’. And he watches me closely now. He’ll take a peek now and then when he’s catnapping to make sure where I am. All the commands and words he used to know such as leash, go for a ride, up, outside, etc. are slowly being replaced with signs and gestures.

We still talk to Charlie. And, yes, he still talks back to us. But sometimes it’s a high shrill bark because he can’t hear himself and doesn’t know how loud he is. He watches our face and still knows when we’re happy or sad or he’s in trouble. He’s really the same old Charlie, just living in silence now. He still loves to go for rides and still barks at motorcycles. I guess it wasn’t the noise of the motorcycle he didn’t like after all. He just plain doesn’t like motorcycles.

There are some things we’ve had to adjust to. When we want his attention we just barely touch his fur and he looks to see what we want. Some websites I found said to be careful not to startle a sleeping deaf dog because they might bite. But Charlie has never bitten anyone in his whole life. When we touch him to get his attention, especially when he’s asleep, he wakes up wagging his tail. And he totally trusts it’s us and wakes up happy.

Since becoming deaf Charlie’s bark can now get especially loud or shrill sometimes. He can’t hear himself so I think he thinks we can’t hear him either. Especially when he’s hungry. He’s become very vocal. And yes, deaf dogs do bark. Even those deaf from birth. I’ve heard this is a question a lot of deaf dog owners get. Being deaf has nothing to do with his vocal chords. And deaf dogs can be trained to have manners and not bark at inappropriate times just like hearing dogs.

There’s been another adjustment that is actually quite comical.

There’s been another adjustment that is actually quite comical. Instead of Charlie alerting us when the doorbell rings, the phone rings, someone pulls into the driveway, etc. we are now alerting HIM that these things are happening. We want him to still feel like part of the family and also try to keep boredom at bay. So when someone rings the doorbell we hop around clapping our hands and acting all excited to let him know what’s going on. We have become the dogs, ha. I wonder what he thinks of us. He probably thinks we’ve lost our minds. But at least he’s thinking and not succumbing totally to depression.

One thing that makes me a little sad is when he’s sleeping and is having a dream he’ll wake up suddenly and run outside barking like he heard something. I’m sure he did hear something in his dreams and he thinks it’s real. It makes me sad knowing he really is in a silent world right now but in a way it’s kind of nice knowing he gets to ‘hear’ something once in awhile even if it is just a dream.

Deaf dogs are adoptable.

One last thing I’d like to mention. Charlie was a hearing dog for the first ten years of his life so you might think that is why he’s so trainable still. But there are lots of puppies born all the time that are deaf from birth and they are just as trainable. Some breeders and even shelters think they aren’t adoptable and dispose of them. But ask anyone who has a deaf dog and they’ll tell you they are just as much fun, just as trainable, and just as loveable as any hearing dog. They are just trained with hand signal commands instead of voice commands. They participate in agility training, obedience training, can be used as therapy dogs and more. There are a lot of deaf dogs out there that need rescued. I just want everyone to know they make great pets so please give one a chance next time you are looking for a best friend.

So that’s my life with Charlie.

In Loving Memory of:


1996 – April 20, 2009

Died of liver failure at Arrow Animal Hospital, Glendale AZ

Rest In Peace Charlie

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