Two are still with us, but we lost one (Burton, pictured near the end of this blog) a bit over a year ago at age 11. Burton is credited with being our first bilaterally deaf adoption, and he taught us so much of what we needed to know. It has not only helped us to move forward with our two additional deafies (our Border Collie, Piper, and our recent addition, Talley, an English Setter), but has given us a lot of insight into the importance of routine, schedules, and body language. I am covering the latter today.
Sign Language is Universal
Signs for quiet, sit, stay, down, wait, outside, eat, finished/no more, no, leave it/drop it, walkies...all of these and more are a part of our daily lives.
But signs aren't so far fetched. Hand signals are often used in dog training, even for hearing dogs. We parlay some of these very same signs into our deaf-dog vocabulary, as well as American Sign Language and things we just made up to suit our own dogs.
The video below is a good representation of most of the signs we use, and I like that a child is involved in the process, because I firmly believe kids need to be taught early how to help care for a pet. Pets and children also have to be taught how to respect each other.
Beyond the signs taught to non-hearing dogs, body language is the next, most important piece of the deaf-dog puzzle.
If you came to visit me, and I did not tell you, I am positive you would be hard-pressed to figure out which of our dogs are deaf. That's because they are so tuned into our pack and our movements, as well as our daily routine. They constantly monitor our body language. They even recognize facial expressions.
Our hearing dogs wait to be told things, but our deaf dogs are already one step ahead and doing it.
And, as with all dogs, body language needs to be CLEAR and CONFIDENT.
Our grandkids stayed with us just the other day, and I enlisted their help in demonstrating, with the assistance of Talley, how body language and signs help them communicate with each other.
Talley used to run all over these two as a wild child puppy, but with patience, confidence, and TREATS, she has learned to respect both of them, and they, in turn, have learned how to manage her with positive reinforcement.
On the left, Lacy has asked Talley to walk with her. You can see how she walks with confidence, and Talley follows and gives her full attention. On the right, Stanton has asked Talley to SIT. Talley is looking right at him, waiting for her next command.
Stanton is asking Talley to STAY, and has already started to back up. He is showing her the reward she will receive when she completes the task.
Photographing Deaf Dogs
I rarely have a problem photographing our deaf dogs. Using their signs, and body language, they have no problem complying with STAY STILL requests for portraits.
I have found that clients who have deaf dogs, often have a series of hand signals they use, much like ours, to make requests. I will ask a client to show me the nuances of their own signals, when working with their dog to capture a great photograph. I do involve owners in the handling of their pets, both in studio and on location, but for reinforcement purposes, I like to understand how they "speak" to their dog.
Advantages of Having a Deaf Dog
Deaf dogs bring certain advantages to the table:
(1) Thunderstorms are not a problem.
(2) They sleep soundly - most noises will not wake them, but the VIBRATIONS from others might.
(3) They watch body language more acutely than hearing dogs.
(4) They don't hear other dogs barking in the neighborhood, so they don't chime in. (Or on walks.)
(5) They don't hear the doorbell (or the UPS truck).
(6) They are just like hearing dogs, only with the above advantages!
I am part of a weekly blogging group of professional pet photographers located all over the planet. To see what others have blogged about in this week's topic "body language," start the blog circle with Tracy Allard of Penny Whistle Photography as she shares her knowledge, as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, to help you recognize subtle signs that your dog may be under stress. Then find the link at the end of each blog to click to the next photographer.
Have a great weekend!