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Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: guitarist
Date: March 22, 2012 07:15AM
Our Mini Australian Shepherd, Charlie, is -- like many dogs in their elder years -- going deaf.

He's such a puppy! It's hard to adjust to his declining sensory capacity. He's 13 years old, and otherwise in good health. Some vision loss, not significant. But a fairly drastic drop in hearing, in the last year. We noticed it when he went from being able to hear my wife's car approaching, to not hearing that she's home until she begins walking on the porch at the front door.

(younger canines have this amazing ability to discern subtle sounds from a distance, detect then dismiss distant automobile sounds that aren't family vehicles, but can quickly recognize and respond to the unique sound signature of a family car, even several blocks away)

Now he can't hear when my wife has parked, walked up steps to porch, come in the door, closes door, hangs up her coat, fully inside the house, speaking, calling his name. She goes to find him, to alert him that she's home. Then, of course, he gets excited.

We mentioned this to our Vet. He recommended teaching him sign language, while he still has some hearing. And further suggested that it'll decline further, until he's functionally deaf, and if we start teaching sign language sooner it'll be useful once his hearing is gone. Aussie Shepherds are bright and observant, we think he'd pick it up.

Any dog owners here with declining hearing/completely deaf dogs? Has anyone here done the sign language thing to replace verbal communication? I'd welcome tips or stories.

When we took him to puppy training class (we called it "human leadership class"--dog owners will recognize the humor and truth in that) a dozen years ago, we were trained in, among other things, a few hand signals. It was a good class, we learned a lot. Our trainer recommended hand signs for all dogs, experienced dog trainers and owners depend on them more than vocal commands. But we haven't used those signals in many years, only one or two might still be recognized. We'd basically be starting over.
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: mstudio
Date: March 22, 2012 07:37AM
Yes, do it now. We had a great mutt many years ago that I unknowingly was teaching sign language. Basically, I was talking to him and using hand signals at the same time. It came to a point where he just looked at me and I would do a hand signal and he responded just as if I was talking.

I was not doing anything scientific as I guess I really wasn't aware at the time what I was doing. As he got older and was having trouble with his hearing, I was glad we were still able to communicate as always.

Go for it, keep that little woofy as happy as you can in his later years.
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: ztirffritz
Date: March 22, 2012 08:10AM
I tried but our dog's eyes are going just as quickly as his ears.



**************************************
Nothing to see here, move along.
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: Lux Interior
Date: March 22, 2012 08:13AM
We trained our dog with hand signals when he was a puppy.

Now he can't hear when my wife has parked, walked up steps to porch, come in the door, closes door, hangs up her coat, fully inside the house, speaking, calling his name. She goes to find him, to alert him that she's home. Then, of course, he gets excited.

I'm not sure what you expect sign language to do here.
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: nwyaker
Date: March 22, 2012 10:09AM
A friend trained her Springer as a pup to follow hand signals - very useful after he became near deaf. He responded well to my hand signals ( after I learned ! ), even though I was an infrequent visitor. A great dog, now in stick chasing heaven.
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: DRR
Date: March 22, 2012 10:32AM
Puppies should actually be trained with hand signals first. Hand signals are much more distinct and the direction is clearer than verbal. Verbal commands should be layered on top of hand signals. Hand signals first promotes faster training and better retention.

At this point though there's no reason you couldn't layer hand signals on top of verbal. It will take a little work but make sure you do it the opposite order that you probably first learned.

That is, you will first need to get his attention. Make sure he knows you have treats. Then do the hand signal FIRST, and say the command. Then reward. You have to be consistent. If you do this enough, the dog will see the hand signal and be able to anticipate what you're going to say, and will take a mental shortcut to get the reward sooner. If you say verbal first, then the hand signal has less effect because you told him sit and he sat, and now all he's thinking is, "where's my reward" not "what's he doing with his hand?"
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: guitarist
Date: March 22, 2012 10:58AM
Quote
Lux Interior
We trained our dog with hand signals when he was a puppy.

Now he can't hear when my wife has parked, walked up steps to porch, come in the door, closes door, hangs up her coat, fully inside the house, speaking, calling his name. She goes to find him, to alert him that she's home. Then, of course, he gets excited.

I'm not sure what you expect sign language to do here.

Lux, I assume you're being sarcastic. No problem, that's welcome here.

Clearly, this was a description of the symptoms, how his declining hearing revealed itself to us, in stages.

It has nothing to do with the benefits of sign language, or our goal of replacing verbal commands with visual ones.

But--you knew that. ;)
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: haikuman
Date: March 22, 2012 11:02AM
I thought this post was going to be about cbelt *(:>*

arooooooooooooooooooooooooo



“Stay Hungry Stay Foolish"
Steve Jobs

"There are only two mantras yum and yuk mine is yum "
Bernard Mickey Wrangle<>Tom Robbins<> "Still Life With Woodpecker"

"There is a fine line between a rut and a groove"
G.D. Kittredge III

"






Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/22/2012 11:04AM by haikuman.
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: ka jowct
Date: March 22, 2012 11:33AM
A smart dog will learn hand signals. I taught a dog that I walk a couple of signals without even intending to do so, by making a gesture while speaking in a couple of situations. After a while I realized that all I needed was the gesture, as long as he was looking at me.

You may need something like an e-collar (set to vibrate, not shock) to get your dog's attention when there is no eye contact.
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: $tevie
Date: March 22, 2012 11:49AM
Our dog was going deaf and my husband kind of improvised hand signals for various things and the dog picked right up on them. Although interestingly enough, it was the cat who learned to look where you are pointing instead of at your finger. The dog needed a sort of sweeping forward motion of the hand.







Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/22/2012 11:51AM by $tevie.
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: btfc
Date: March 22, 2012 01:18PM
"to get your dog's attention when there is no eye contact."

I spend a lot of time with a deaf dog, and this point is key. "Deaf" has been deaf from birth, and is well trained to hand signals, but he is also trained to look for those visual commands.



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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: RAMd®d
Date: March 22, 2012 01:27PM
A smart dog will learn hand signals. I taught a dog that I walk a couple of signals without even intending to do so, by making a gesture while speaking in a couple of situations. After a while I realized that all I needed was the gesture, as long as he was looking at me.

You may need something like an e-collar (set to vibrate, not shock) to get your dog's attention when there is no eye contact.


Outstanding post!

This was my experience with my dog. Once I realized how aware he was of even facial expression, I trained him on a number of hand signals. My favorite was touching him between the shoulder blades with the second knuckle of my middle finger to put him on alert of anybody around us.


Although interestingly enough, it was the cat who learned to look where you are pointing instead of at your finger. The dog needed a sort of sweeping forward motion of the hand.

I find a lot of dogs need that gesture.

My girlfriend's cat learned to meow without making any noise. Every time the cat meowed for food, she put the cat outside. Though she wasn't trying to train the cat, very quickly it learned to mouth the meow for anything it wanted. It's one funny cat, with a lot of personality.



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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Date: March 22, 2012 02:07PM
I asked a friend and got this - [www.deafdogs.org]

Hmm, I wonder if there is a market for having Siri recognize when the can opener is running and send a message to an e-collar.



in tha 510.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/22/2012 02:10PM by Filliam H. Muffman.
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: GGD
Date: March 22, 2012 02:47PM
Quote
guitarist
Now he can't hear when my wife has parked, walked up steps to porch, come in the door, closes door, hangs up her coat, fully inside the house, speaking, calling his name. She goes to find him, to alert him that she's home. Then, of course, he gets excited.

We went through this problem of not knowing we were home when our dog lost her hearing, and sign language won't help of the dog can't see you, and wouldn't be needed if the dog could see you.

I had a routine with our dog whenever I ate a banana, she would get the tips and strings. She used to be able to detect my fingernails touching the bowl that the bananas were in and come running to the kitchen before I even picked up the banana, later she could hear the snap of the banana stem.

But it got to a point where she was unaware that I was about to eat a banana. Tapping my foot on the floor sometimes worked, she could feel the vibrations. But eventually I would have to walk into whatever room she was napping in and wave a banana. I guess that was sort of sign language, she knew exactly what it meant.

There was one positive when she lost her hearing, fireworks on the 4th of July used to scare the crap of her. At one point she actually jumped into the bathtub for protection. In her later years she had very calm 4th of July's.
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: Jack D.
Date: March 22, 2012 05:27PM
It's a well known fact that the deaf hear you better when you look straight at them and yell!!



- Jack D.




New tasteless sig coming soon!
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: $tevie
Date: March 22, 2012 05:39PM
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: Jack D.
Date: March 22, 2012 05:43PM
Quote
$tevie

EXACTLY!!



- Jack D.




New tasteless sig coming soon!
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: bwicklander
Date: March 22, 2012 06:00PM
Definitely use sign language with your dog. Many people have used sign language with their deaf dogs. There are Deaf families that use sign language with their dog that is able to hear. Find a signing with your baby book at the library.
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: haikuman
Date: March 22, 2012 07:23PM




“Stay Hungry Stay Foolish"
Steve Jobs

"There are only two mantras yum and yuk mine is yum "
Bernard Mickey Wrangle<>Tom Robbins<> "Still Life With Woodpecker"

"There is a fine line between a rut and a groove"
G.D. Kittredge III

"


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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: guitarist
Date: March 23, 2012 03:43AM
Good posts, thanks gang.

My impression is that canines are well-suited to pick up and work well with visual gestures, they already are skilled at reading intentions and looking for clues. Lots of dogs are keen observers of human behavior, gestures, movements, cues. And Aussie Shepherds are particularly observant that way.

When we learned a few signals at puppy training class, they were aimed at safety, being able to gesture a dog to stop and wait (if near a street, or a potentially hazardous crosswalk, and there's a lot of surrounding noise, etc.)

He's been a good sport about dealing with disability. He's had Epilepsy since he was a tiny pup, and has about a dozen episodes a year, throughout his life. it's not severe enough to require medication. I learned that Epilepsy in dogs is not uncommon. Some breeds more than others.

Oh well. My hearing isn't as good as it used to be, either!
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Re: Deafness in older dogs: any here use sign language?
Posted by: $tevie
Date: March 23, 2012 09:17AM
Quote
guitarist
Oh well. My hearing isn't as good as it used to be, either!

I hear ya.

Or maybe not: my hearing also isn't as good as it used to be!



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