Deaf Dog – Jacob
The Story of Jacob the Deaf Boston
A story to encourage owners with deaf animals
As a small Boston Terrier puppy, it was difficult to tell if my dog Jacob was deaf or if he was simply following his own agenda. For the first two weeks after I brought him home I blamed myself for choosing the wildest and craziest dog in the entire pet store. Like every new puppy, Jacob did not respond to his name (or any other colorful names I happened to shout at him), nor did he understand the word “No!” regardless of how loudly the word was emphasized. But strangely he didn’t even bat an eyelid when a tin can filled with coins was rattled in his presence. At the end of the day, he slept like he had never slept before, and continued to sleep even after I blew on my trumpet as hard as I could. I came down to two conclusions: either he is the most unresponsive spawn of the devil, or that he may just be… deaf.
Jacob and I were referred to Purdue University Teaching Hospital, one of many veterinary hospitals to administer the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test. It was a simple, quick, and easy test. Small electrodes were placed under the skin. An electrode was placed in front of each ear, one between, and one behind, the eyes and one at the top of the head. The electrodes recorded any brain activity that was generated due to a sound stimulus transmitted via earphones to the ears. This method made it possible to test the response of each individual ear to the sound. The test results indicated that Jacob had no auditory capability in either ear. In other words, he was completely and utterly deaf.
In the weeks following the confirmation of Jacob’s condition, I quickly learned what it meant to care for a deaf dog. Because I knew he was different from other dogs, I immediately understood that training methods were going to be different than those used on other dogs. For example, as a welcome home from the hospital gift, he received a brand new vibrating collar. It pulsed when I pressed a little white button on the remote control. At first, he was spooked by the vibration of the collar but he quickly learned that when the collar vibrated, a doggie treat was coming his way. Much like a paging system, I used the device to help find him if he was sleeping in a random corner of the house. One press of the button and he would quickly wake up and track me down so that he could claim his treat. In addition, I used the vibrating collar like a clicker trainer. Every time he performed a desired action, I would make the collar vibrate, show him the appropriate hand signal for that action, and then reward him with a treat. It took Jacob two weeks to learn his first sit. After which, he quickly figured out that paying attention to hand signals was the means to getting more treats.
Today, Jacob understands a repertoire of hand signals which include: sit, stay, come, lie down, roll over, give a high-five, dance in a circle on his hind legs, jump onto/through/over desired objects, find a certain person in the house, go for a walk, heel on command, go for a car ride, etc. Jacob’s disability has not prevented him from being one of the most highly functional and well-trained dogs I have met.
Jacob has also learned on his own to compensate for his inability to hear. He takes cues from his cat companion, a gray domestic short-haired sweetheart, named Jasmine. Whenever he sees Jasmine walk purposefully towards the front door, he immediately clues in that someone has arrived at the house, and he runs there to greet the guests as if he had heard them at the doorstep.
Understandably, learning that your pet is deaf can be overwhelming. I personally know many deaf dogs who lead very normal lives. Jacob, my deaf Boston, is a testimony himself. Now he is so well integrated that if you met him on the street, you wouldn’t even guess that he was deaf. It is my hope that this article will reach out positively to pet owners of deaf dogs. Training and living with a deaf dog may take a little more patience than usual, but I assure you, it is a very fulfilling process.
If you do suspect that your dog is deaf, please follow the link to:
What every owner must know about raising a deaf dog
By Serene Lai – Pets.ca writer