There are many physically challenged dogs that have problems finding homes because people are afraid of what taking on a dog that is “different” might entail. The Lake City, Fla. Humane Society just posted one on Petfinder.com on Jan. 1. His name is Dakota, he’s an Australian Shepherd mix. He’s just a baby and he’s looking for a home.
Dakota is one of so many dogs and cats that can be found on various Facebook sites. There are sites where people can talk about issues that arise with their deaf dogs. Other sites are used by shelters, rescues and crossposters to get the word out about these wonderful animals. And then there is Deaf Dogs Rock , which is the most cited website for anything and everything you wanted to know about deaf dogs. They have a dog of the day feature; today, Jan. 3, it’s filled with photos and the bio of Dora, a purebred boxer in Northern Cal., who is looking for a home.
Deaf dogs come in all breeds, in all shapes and sizes. Usually the dogs have white coats, but not every time. Here is one dog named Poke, who would like to share his story with you, so you can learn a little about him and his furever family.
Poke lives in Central Fla. with his brother Buck and his two humans, Tamara and Lynn. When it’s time for her boys to get up in the morning, Tamara calls out “Hey, Buck, go wake up your brother!” And Buck runs over to his brother Poke and begins to nudge him with his nose, sometimes pushing at him with a big paw until Poke opens his eyes, yawning and stretching, and smiles at his goofy brother. And they both go in search of their Mom to find out what’s in store for the morning. Will it be a romp in the backyard or a ride in the car? Or maybe a walk around the neighborhood, with Poke sandwiched between his brother and his mom. He’ll carefully watch Tamara’s face, and look for the hand signals to let him know what’s to come.
If it’s to be a walk, you’ll always find Polk being the meat in the middle of the Mom-Buck “sandwich”. Since most likely he’s been deaf since birth, Poke is very much a “Velcro” dog, as many deaf dogs are. He always wants to be near his person. A Dalmatian-Bull Terrier-Bulldog mix, chances are that his deafness comes from the Dal side of the family. According to Dogtime.com, between 8% and 10% of Dalmatians are born completely deaf, and another 20% are deaf in one ear.
The Dalmatian Club of America recommends euthanizing completely deaf puppies because ” they’re more challenging to train.” They go even further, stating that a deaf Dal should never be sold, given away, or have a rescue beg to place them. Strike one for Poke finding a home. Plus you add in the fact that he is a bully mix, a breed that has garnered so much unwarranted prejudice; Poke had a double whammy against him from the start.
This breed has so many myths thrown against them, like “their jaws lock when they bite”. According to The Real Pitbull, no dog has a mechanism for their jaws to do this. And they’re no more likely to bite than any other breed. As an example, a six-month-long investigation revealed that in the Denver area, based on 6,500 reported dog bites between 2012 and 2013, the top five biting breeds are Labs, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Chihuahuas and Bulldogs.
Yet bully breeds are frequently mistreated and abused, and have the highest euthanasia rate of any breed in the country. The American Temperament Testing Society or ATTS, an organization that promotes uniform temperament testing, has found that the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Terrier all had a higher than average passing score, averaging 87.3%, and did better than many other breeds, including Golden Retrievers, who come in at 85.2%, when it comes to stability, aggression and friendliness, among other traits. Even Helen Keller had a pittie… which leads us back to Poke!
Liz Keiffer of Faith Hope and Love Rescue in Florida spotted the potential in the puppy. Though a little shy because of his deafness, he had no fear or aggression in his demeanor and she chose to take him into her rescue, believing he had a shot at finding a good home.
And in 2007, Poke found the humans that fit him perfectly! His two moms are well-versed in dealing with physical challenges. Tamara is an interpreter for the deaf, and Lynn Pearman, her partner, was a Behavior Specialist who worked with special needs children for the Orange County, Fla., school district. Lynn also trained with Florida Guide Dogs for the Deaf. So Poke’s four paws are definitely in four capable hands.
He was named Poke because when he was a puppy he had two small polka dots right below his nose. And speaking of his nose, due to his loss of hearing, his sense of smell is intensified. When she is feeling down, or is ill, like all of us, her body chemistry changes. You and I wouldn’t notice this, but Poke can smell this change and will come over to check on her. As does his brother Buck, but chances are that Poke notices first.
You read earlier that Poke is a “Velcro” dog. If you’re sitting down, he always needs to be touching you. He likes to lie at his mom’s feet, with one of his paws across her foot. He’s also learned a variety of hand signals, like bath, treat, come, car, potty, play ball, good boy and swim. Tamara presented some of the signals and a volunteer tried them out on Poke, who responded like a champ. Tamara remarked,
“we’re careful signaling for car, because the signal for that one is like milking a cow, though it’s supposed to look like somebody holding a steering wheel. So when we signal instead of ask for milk from the fridge, Poke usually expects to get a ride in the car.”
Most of these learned behaviors didn’t come easy to Poke. It took between 6 months to a year to gain his trust. Being deaf, he does have a higher level of anxiety and it takes longer for him to acclimate to new surroundings, new people, learn what’s going on and what’s expected. He had to learn to communicate with humans AND with dogs. Two worlds, two different languages.
Though Tamara believes it’s not necessary for a deaf dog to be placed with a hearing dog, in Poke’s case it helped teach him the ropes of being a dog. He’s even able to go to the local dogpark, and be off-leash, but keeps his mom in sight at all times. Which isn’t really any different from any other dog! They almost always like to check in to make sure their humans are still where they left them. When Tamara and Lynn are getting dressed, the dogs even check out their planned wardrobes to see if they’re worktime clothes or playtime clothes!
Tamara is often asked, ‘how do you train a deaf dog to come to you?’ That’s probably the most frequently asked question before someone adopts a deaf animal, and the most worrisome. She explained that if you don’t have another hearing one, like Buck, to go find him or her, there are Vibration or Vibrating Collars that owners sometimes use. She had nothing but good things to say about them. These are NOT shock collars and should not be used as no-bark collars, but can be used to get your deaf dog to come! If you’re interested in learning more, Tamara recommended a variety of training videos posted by Panzertoo.
The most important starting point to training a deaf dog is to get his attention, and have him watch your face. Have plenty of treats on hand, give a signal and repeat- repeat -repeat. Tamara tells me that Poke is definitely food driven, which has put a few added pounds on Buck, who usually ends up with a treat at the same time.
Poke will keep his eyes on your face and hands to anticipate what’s coming. Once he decides a visitor is ok, and they signal for him to come over, he usually does so quite willingly, even giving a couple of sweet kisses in exchange for a good back scratching.
Being deaf, Poke definitely doesn’t like anything surprising him. He likes to sit in the same part of the yard, where he can keep a close eye on the front gate, the backdoor and the fence on the other side of the yard. When he sits down, he likes to sit with his back close to the fence so nothing can sneak up on him. He does the same thing inside the house, until he feels comfortable with those in the room. He’s very watchful, and had to be taught not to bark at every leaf that he saw blow past the house. Of course, when his brother Buck gets riled up about a sound outside, they both go rushing to the window to see what’s up.
The Purina Pro Club understands the extra attention initially required by choosing a deaf dog.
“You still need to go to obedience class, not so much for the dog but to teach you how to train the dog,…the more deaf dogs know their boundaries, the better it is for them.”
Another owner of a deaf dog stated,
“He has such an environmental awareness,…he can run through the house at full speed, or the backyard, and not hit a thing. He can be upstairs and smell when somebody enters the house. It’s incredible. He did require more attention. Just love the animal and they’ll give it back.”
Training a deaf cat is very similar to training a deaf dog. According to About.com, you can use visual signals, a beam of a flashlight or porchlight to signal your cat that it’s time to eat. They may still be able to hear a dog whistle. The frequency is so high that humans can’t detect it, but cats still may be able to do so. The do startle easily, so sneaking up on them is out. Stomp your feet so they know you’re coming. This will keep you from getting nipped by a frightened cat. And keep your hearing-impaired animal indoors. A deaf cat can still be a happy pet. Ehow also has some great pointers and this Facebook site lists some special needs cats for you to choose from, located all over the country.
Poke, and all the dogs you see in the pictures on the Deaf Dogs Rock website, and the others listed above, are deaf-initely dogs that fall into that category!
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