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Love is a language which the blind can see and the deaf can hear.
 - Donald E. Wildman

Although this is not our area of expertise, we get requests for this information often enough that we thought we should provide a few links (just to get you started). Please note that we cannot answer further questions on these topics, it's just not our area of expertise.

Deaf & Blind/Vision Impaired Dogs

We haven't been able to find many links for dogs that are both deaf and blind (or very vision impaired), if you know of more, please let us know! The tips that follow were contributed by members of the DeafDogs list at Yahoo!Groups.

  • Blind & Deaf Dogs List - this is probably the best source of information. This list has public archives, so you can read what people have said even without joining (although you need to join to be able to ask questions).
  • Con Dolcezza! - Dolci, a blind and deaf Australian Shepherd
  • A Vibrating collar might be a very good idea for a deaf dog who is vision impaired.
  • It is very important that you work on teaching your dog what you want them to do, rather than trying to figure out how to teach them "no." In order to tell your dog no, you would first need to get his attention. If you tell him "no" at that point, he may very well think that looking at you is a "bad" thing to do. That's not what you want, you want attention to be the very best thing he can do. One recommendation is to tether your dog to you for a few weeks, so that he or she has no choice but to hang out with you. You can interrupt any wrong behavior immediately, and the dog learns that hanging out with you is the thing to do.
  • Teach your dog to find you (this is much like teaching a dog to "come"). Take a shirt or other item that you have slept in (so that it really smells like you), and drag it in front of your dog until he reaches you (give a cookie!). After he gets good at it, tie a string to it, and drag it to you, with him following.
  • Toy Ideas
    • Look for scented toys - some stuffed toys come with scents, and there are tennis balls that have a mint or peanut butter scent. You can also scent your own, by soaking them in chicken broth (or injecting it with a hypodermic needle), or a few drops of essential oils (be careful with these, they are very concentrated and some can cause allergic reactions).
    • You also may want to look for toys with different textures (different kinds of stuffing - some toys have "krinkly" filling rather than polyfil - and different outer layers, fur, fleece, sheepskin, terrycloth, etc.)
    • Depending on your dog's vision, there are light up balls that may work well.
    • Toys (such as a Kong) that can be stuffed with food and treats are good, too.
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Blind Dogs

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Deaf Cats

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD is by no means a common problem in deaf dogs. It seems to show up most often in the more active, intelligent breeds (such as Dalmatians, Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, and Jack Russell Terriers) regardless of their ability to hear. It usually manifests itself as some combination of light/shadow chasing, fly chasing/snapping or digging. It can also be seen as spinning/tail chasing, pacing, or licking (which is what many of these articles are about).

The biggest thing to remember is that while very mild cases may go away on their own, more severe cases won't, and the sooner you start to work on it the better. Even with a dog who only shows mild signs, it's worth it to take the problem seriously and try to prevent it from escalating. For instance, don't play with your dog by having him chase a flashlight beam or laser light dot if he seems to get overexcited or has trouble stopping when the game is over. Very serious cases may require your veterinarian to prescribe drugs to treat.

  • Take your dog to your vet, and make sure there is not a medical cause for the problem. If you end up needing prescription drugs, you will need to see your vet again.
  • Don't ignore it. If your dog is indulging in OCD type behavior, stop him whenever he starts (you might want to consider tethering your dog to you, so you can catch the behavior before he has a chance to indulge). Interrupt the activity, and do something else.
  • It's possible that the problem may be caused by stress. If you can figure out the cause and remove it, you may solve the problem.
  • Teach an incompatible behavior. For example, if your dog always chases the light when you open a shade, have him do a sit-stay every time you open the window.
  • Make sure he is getting enough mental exercise. Enroll in an obedience class (or 2), take some agility lessons, learn new tricks. Increase his vocabulary and get his brain engaged.
  • Take your dog places, meet new people, explore. Use a kibble dispensing toy to feed him his meals. Stuff kongs with different treats every day. Do new things, and keep his other senses occupied!
  • Make sure your dog is getting enough physical exercise on a regular schedule as well (a tired dog is a good dog).
  • Be careful not to inadvertently reward the OCD behavior by paying more attention to the dog when he indulges rather than when he is being "good." Reinforce anything that isn't OCD behavior.
  • Don't become obsessive over your dog's OCD. It won't help either of you.
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