Did you know that even a deaf dog can understand sign language?

According to some estimates, around 5-10 percent of all dogs can be partially or completely deaf. Apparently, dogs with white coats are more prone to deafness. Even though it does not affect only older dogs, it is not a topic that is often discussed. How to talk to a deaf dog?

Unless it is an injury or just old age, deafness in a dog is a genetic disorder. Dogs with a white coat tend to be the most affected. 

What has a white coat got to do with hearing? 
The ability to hear is possible thanks to a special layer of cells inside the inner ear. This layer shares the source of stem cells with those that determine the colour of the coat. A genetic disorder causes piebaldism on parts or the whole body.  The dog's coat does not turn brown or any other colour and due to the lack of pigment (melanin), it stays white. 

The fact that the dog does not suffer from this disorder now does not mean that it will not develop in the future. There is a possibility to have your dog examined using the BAER congenital deafness test. The test costs around CZK1,000 and in most cases it is necessary to make an appointment with your vet. 

Dogs react better to sign commands
If you find out that your dog is suffering from partial or total deafness, do not panic. Communication with your pet can easily be switched to sign language. According to some sources, sign commands are 17% more effective. A recent study has even revealed a 99% response to sign language in a dog.

Maybe not exactly shocking for cynologists, but for laymen more so. Sign language is a common practice during obedience training. If you make it a part of your dog's training, regardless of his coat colour and the associated level of the risk of deafness, it will make your life much easier and also the life of your dog as he ages.

Dog sign language is not hard to learn. There is a specific hand sign for every basic obedience command (with an option to use only one hand). Possibly the most common dog sign language method is K9Sign. It was developed by the researcher Sean Senechal, who is also the founder of the AnimalSign Centre. K9Sign is based on American Sign Language (ASL). To find out how it is done, go to ndeafdogsrock.com/beginning-sign-training. We also recommend books written by Senechal himself, featuring his German Shepherd, Chal, who he tested his sign language method on.

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