Deaf, blind and deaf & blind dogs. They deserve a chance.
For the last 23 years, I have been working with all types of issues in the canine world. I use the tag line, “specializing in misunderstood dogs” because so many people truly do not know how to communicate with our canine family members. Through the years, I have been asked to take on dogs that range from “rage” point, to rude dogs, to disabled dogs. They all have a special place in my heart, but my disabled dogs hold the record for most “misunderstood” dogs out there.
I am continuously called by shelters about dogs that will be killed simply because they have a disability. This hits a very hard nerve in me, because I have heard so many people tell me the human species is by far the most compassionate, caring species out there. Really? How can we claim to be compassionate when we will kill an innocent animal because they cannot hear, or possibly cannot see? Dogs are amazing creatures, we all know this. They do not hold on to their “disability”, they simply adjust and carry on just as any other dog will.
I had been asked to write an article about deaf dogs and aggression for the AKC delegates when they were fighting to get deaf dogs in agility competition. I did so last year, but still today I receive calls about dogs that will be killed in our shelters, for no other reason than loss of hearing. These dogs are friendly towards people and dogs, have a zest for life just as their hearing brothers and sisters, but yet they are the first to be killed because of a disability we believe can make them “unpredictable”.
I have dealt with thousands of dogs for aggression issues; they come in all shapes and sizes. No specific breed, no specific sex, and certainly not all of them are disabled. ANY dog can and will show aggression if not trained properly, even a Golden Retriever. To simply use a disability as an excuse to kill, is quite frankly, ridiculous. The big issue people have with disabled dogs, the dreaded “startle aggression” that they say, “all disabled dogs have”. This type of aggression is not just seen in disabled dogs as so many people want you to believe. How many of you have older dogs that sleep soundly or have lost their hearing and have snapped or growled at you for moving too closely. Some of my clients have young healthy dogs that will do the same thing. Why? Simple, they have not been conditioned properly to expect the unexpected. We never think about this until a problem erupts.
I assess many rescue and shelter dogs for adoptability and on my assessment test I include a series of “startle” items, as most behaviorists will. Why, because ANY dog can have “startle” aggression. It is not limited to disabled dogs. If one of these dogs, mostly healthy, hearing and seeing dogs, shows startle aggression, we start them on a behavior modification program. So why would you not offer the same options and opportunity to a disabled dog?
Maybe it is because you are nervous they will “runaway” and not come back. So I ask you, how many shelters are full of hearing dogs that have strayed from their owners? How many dogs are constantly being chased around dog parks because they won’t come back to their owners once off leash? This is not an excuse to kill. Just as their hearing and seeing relatives, disabled dogs can and should learn a solid recall before being allowed off leash.
Our deaf dogs are taught how to recall to us by using a flashing light. In the daytime we use a laser light to get their focus and draw them to us. This is taught similarly to using a clicker or a verbal cue. No dog is born with the knowledge of the recall command, it has to be taught; whether they are deaf, blind or healthy. Some dogs, deaf or not, can never achieve off leash privileges due to how they are driven.
In my experience working with ALL dogs, I can honestly say that disabled dogs have more focus and trust in their humans, than the majority of other dogs.
A good friend of mine recently shot a video of our disabled fosters to show the world how EVERY dog deserves a chance at loving home, I hope you enjoy it.