Is your older dog “ignoring” your commands recently?
When you tell her to come, does she walk away instead?
Does she seem to be sleeping more deeply lately?
If your answers to these questions are Yes, chances are, your pawsome oldie may have started losing her hearing.
Mine started when she was 14. We usually went to a nearby park in the morning for her potty, and she liked going off-leash to sniff around the park. When it was time to go home, she would always come when I told her to, but more and more often, she would “ignore” my command and continue to walk and sniff around the park.
At first, we thought she was becoming a stubborn old lady, but when she failed to come to the door when my husband returned home from work (which she’d never failed to do before), we realized that she was going deaf.
After the stroke, she just went totally deaf, literally overnight. What’s left of her hearing was gone, completely.
What Causes Old Dog Hearing Loss?
In older dogs, gradual hearing loss is inevitable. And if the dog is lucky enough to live to be 16 or 17 or older, chances are she may eventually become totally deaf.
Besides just plain old age, there are other causes of hearing loss in older dogs – such as brain tumors and strokes as in my dog’s case.
Sometimes, some drugs (e.g. some antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs) could also cause hearing loss as a side effect.
How To Tell if Your Old Dog is Losing Her Hearing?
One simple way to check is to make some noise (e.g. jingle a bunch of keys, or squeeze her favorite squeaky toy) behind the dog. If she doesn’t respond, she may have started losing her hearing.
Other signs include sleeping more soundly than usual, not running away from noises that she used to dislike (e.g. the vacuum cleaner), failing to respond when someone is at the door, etc.
If your older dog has lost her hearing all of a sudden (not gradually), take her to the vet for a thorough physical examination. Gradual hearing loss in old dogs is normal, but sudden loss is not.
More often than not, an underlying issue has caused the hearing loss to happen, and it is important to find out why and hopefully timely treatment can be given to the dog.
Old Dog Hearing Loss – What To Do?
There are quite a few things that you can do to help your older dog cope with hearing loss. For example:
Get a Whistle
While most older dogs who are considered “deaf” cannot hear verbal commands, they can still hear high-pitched noises, such as a whistle. Use it to communicate with your dog.
Train her by pairing the sound of whistle with a yummy treat. So if your dog is in the yard and you want her to get back into the house, blow the whistle and if she comes, give her a treat. Very soon she will associate the whistle with yummy treats and will come every time she hears the whistle.
Use Hand Signals
When in the house, try to adopt some hand signals for simple commands, like “come”, “go”, “stay”, “down”, etc. Dogs are very observant and since they communicate mostly by body language anyway, training them to obey hand signals is not hard at all.
When training your dog using hand signals, try to do it with your back to a wall, to limit other visual distractions, so that your dog can focus more on you.
Be Vigilant When Walking Outside
Since your dog cannot hear as well, or at all, walking outside can pose more risks to her. Always put her on a leash and keep her close to your side. Bear in mind that she can no longer hear oncoming cars, and one mis-step could be disastrous.
When out hiking on bike paths or sidewalks, beware of bicycles, other dogs, and joggers.
Don’t Approach Your Dog From Behind
As your dog cannot hear you approaching, she might be startled if you approach from behind and suddenly pet her. Same thing when she is sleeping – do not suddenly start touching your dog – she might be scared and might respond aggressively.
Tell your family members to do the same. When visitors meet your dog, tell them to be in the dog’s line of sight, smile, avoid direct eye contact, and to offer his palm to sniff.
Perhaps the most important thing to do to cope with your dog’s hearing loss is for you to be positive.
Yes, it’s sad that your dog can’t hear you anymore, but you can still communicate with her in other ways. Smile, and give her a treat for good behavior every time (as she can’t hear you say “good girl” anymore…)
Don’t blame the dog for not obeying you or for failing to come running to you when you call. Remember – it’s NOT her fault.
Dogs are very resilient and they can cope with hearing loss very well, with a little adjustment.
My dog Hana learned our sign language very fast, and she tried very hard to observe us – to see what we were doing in the house by following us with her eyes!
She also managed to greet my husband at the door by feeling the vibration of the opening and closing of the garage door.
But there were times when we thought how hard it must have been for her to suddenly have to live in a silent world. What was going through her mind all day?
One thing I know is, she was a brave girl and took everything thrown at her in stride. And I know your golden oldie is the same.