Good dog Jillie, a ScooperDude customer, is deaf.
Jillie’s humans brought the pup home when she was four months old. She’s an English White Lab, not a common breed here in the U.S. A horse breeder in Kentucky liked the look and temperament of white labs and decided to import a male from the UK and breed a few pups.
When Jillie was eight months old, she started to bump into things. Her coordination seemed off. She became lethargic, not typical for a puppy. Her family took her to a veterinarian and then to a veterinary neurologist. Jillie had a scan and spinal tap and was diagnosed with encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain or spinal cord.
That’s a scary diagnosis. Jillie was treated with steroids and other meds and recovered. But, over the next year or so, Jillie started to lose her hearing. Four years after the encephalitis scare, Jillie is now completely deaf.
Her family says Jillie is the same great dog she was as a puppy. Early on she was lucky to have another family member – Stella, a Bernese Mountain Dog – to help her. Jillie would follow Stella and take cues from her. It worked well. The family also put a bell on her collar so they knew when Jillie was moving and where she was.
When Stella died, Jillie knew household routines and managed well on her own. Her pet parents helped by teaching Jillie hand commands so she could follow directions. When she goes out at night to pee or poop, they use a flashlight to signal to her to come in.
The family’s greatest fear is Jillie getting out of the yard or somehow wandering off without them. She couldn’t hear them calling her name, wouldn’t hear a car approaching or be aware of other dangers that require hearing.
Jillie’s family has these tips for someone considering adopting a deaf dog or for pet parents who have a dog going deaf.
- Don’t hesitate to adopt a dog because it’s deaf. Deaf dogs are wonderful family members. They don’t take that much extra work, just some different kind of care.
- Do have a fenced yard with a strong latch on the gate.
- When you go out, keep the dog on leash at all times.
- Add a tag to the collar that says “hearing impaired.”
- Teach the dog hand commands. That’s good for the dog and his or her humans.
- Deaf dogs can feel vibrations, so sometimes clapping your hands or stomping your feet on the floor is a way to get their attention.
- Having another dog in the house that can gives cues is a real help.
Here are a few past ScooperDude posts about deaf dogs:
- A Scooper’s Salute to Deaf Dogs has information about causes of deafness and resources for families with deaf dogs.
- Hear! hear!– deaf dogs can be wonderful family members
- Deaf Dogs are not Dumb Dogs is about a North Carolina family that adopted a deaf dog who became an “AmbassaDog” for other deaf dogs. He even started a foundation to help rural NC shelters.