a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Deaf Dog Examples and Analysis

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Deaf Dog Examples and Analysis

What's odd is that Jake seems to respond to some sounds or commands sometimes but at most times I could swear he's completely deaf (doesn't respond to his name or a squeaky directly behind him, for example). He still does "left" and "right" when in front of me and looking up at me--how does he do it?! Can dogs read lips? He hesitates before doing them, but it seems to me that he always did hesitate a bit (that one-brain-cell thing). I tried mouthing the commands without making any noise, and the percentage of times when he did nothing at all went way up--but when he did something, he usually did the right thing. Is there a subtle difference in my face/throat when I'm not actually saying anything, or is he in fact hearing some kind of sound vibration? It's intriguing...

I'm now trying to figure out how to handle a fast dog on course who doesn't really realize that he can't hear me and that I can't always get in front of. This is probably why we've been having trouble getting Snooker legs recently (no response from him when I'm trying to call him off an obstacle).

Other things that he seems to respond to:

Odd noises in the environment, but without a clear sense of direction. For example, I used the mongo hole-punch this morning while he was cat-napping on the office floor. It emitted a loud squeak/thunk. He immediately looked up, but in the opposite direction, out towards the front door, and peered in that direction as though trying to hear more.

His name when playing fetch--I send him behind me and he takes off running and I yell "Jake" and he spins back towards me. Sometimes but not every time. But lying in a quiet room facing away from me, he doesn't respond at all to anything, even me yelling his name. Is it a subtle body language thing in the yard?

The other dogs barking it up in the other room. But he doesn't immediately jump up and join them or start immediately barking. He looks up, alert, head and ears pointed in the general direction of the activity, and when the activity doesn't stop, he somewhat hesitantly gets up to go see whether something's going on. When he gets there, he joins enthusiastically in the barking. Is he responding to their physical activity somehow? (I'd be more inclined to believe this if he were lying on a floor that vibrates--but the office is on a concrete slab, and the other dogs are usually up half a story in another part of the house).

How'd he go deaf? Amber died at about 13, with arthritis in her back being her worst challenge. We never noticed her being hard of hearing. Sheba died at about 17. She had some trouble hearing, I think, but not a lot--but then, she had huge fleshy growths inside her ear canals that completely blocked them. Kind of weird but not particularly harmful. My ears sometimes start ringing when Jake gets a loud squeaky toy and squeak-squeak-squeak-squeak-squeaks it a thousand times a minute--and he's been a lot closer to those than I've been! Could that have contributed? (Sort of like rock stars whose music deafens them at an early age.) Then there's Tika--she barked in my face yesterday and it was almost painful to my ears. Considering that she loves to chase Jake when he's playing fetch and leap at his head and yell "Bark!" as he grabs the toy, maybe that's contributed to it.

Who knows. Vet did say that most dogs by 12 or 13 experience some hearing loss.

But it is SOOOOOO heartbreaking that Jake no longer responds to the sound of a squeakie, just about his favorite thing in the universe. That hasn't stopped him, however, from squeaking them enthusiastically--maybe when they're in his mouth he still gets some vibratory feedback?

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