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Cathy M. Rosenthal: Teach deaf dog to react to visual cues

July 28, 2007

San Antonio Express-News

Dear Cathy: My husband and I recently adopted a dog from the Animal Defense League. After we got her home, we discovered she was deaf. We are trying to house-train her but are not having great success. She goes very well when we take her out, but we are having trouble trying to get her to tell us when she wants to go out. She is 5 months old now. She is very smart, and we have become very attached to her. She is still having accidents in the house. Do you know of any local training for deaf dogs?— Sharon Melville

Dear Sharon: Sometimes shelters don’t notice when a dog is deaf because the dog is reacting to so much visual stimuli in the shelter. And that’s your No. 1 training tip here: Develop and rely on hand signals and visual cues to help her learn. Just like with a hearing dog, take her outside when she gets up from a nap, finishes a meal or starts sniffing. When you teach a hearing dog to go out, you may also say, “Do you have to go out?” The dog learns that means go outside only because you follow those words with that action. In the case of a deaf dog, you have to connect going outside with a visual cue. For example, you could put a bell on the inside door handle and paw at it yourself every time you let her out. Visually, she will make the connection between pawing the handle and going outside. Give her a treat when she begins pawing at it herself. Of course, she won’t hear the bell, only see the bell moving, but you will hear it and know she needs to go outside. I don’t know any local dog trainers who work specifically with deaf dogs, but much of dog training is based on visual cues, so most experienced trainers should be able to help you. I recommend reading the book “Living with a Deaf Dog” by Susan Cope-Becker and visiting http://www.deafdogs.org for more tips on how to live with and train a deaf dog.

Dear Cathy: Every summer, my granddaughter, Rachel, wants to come to my house to sew kitty comforters. We have done this for the past three years and donated them to the Humane Society. Rachel has passed along her passion for animals to her younger sister, Rheanna, who just turned 5 years old. What a wonderful role model Rachel has turned out to be. Rachel and Rheanna are so excited about sewing the comforters, and as a grandmother I’m excited for them to spend time with me doing the things they love. Because of them, the Humane Society will be getting an abundant supply of comforters by the end of summer.

— Cheryl Jones

Dear Cheryl: Let’s give you some credit for their altruism, grandma. Your grandkids are interested in helping animals because they saw you as a role model. It’s important that children learn at a young age to think and care about the welfare of animals, even if there are no pets in the home. It gets them thinking about things other than themselves, which hopefully leads to compassionate, charitable adults.

Tell Rachel and Rheanna that I am proud of them and have seen how much the cats love curling up on those special comforters.

If you can’t sew kitty quilts, but want to help animals, check out San Antonio’s Rock n Rescue — a battle of the bands that chooses opening acts to play for headliners, like “Grand Funk Railroad” and “Rare Earth,” at the AT&T Summer Concert Series. Visit http://www.sarocknrescue.com for details.

Send your pet stories to Cathy M. Rosenthal, c/o Features Department, San Antonio Express-News, P.O. Box 2171, San Antonio, TX 78297-2171, or cathy@petpundit.com. Cathy’s advice column runs Sundays. Read Rosenthal’s blog, Animals MatterExpress-News publish date July 29, 2007http://www.mysanantonio.com/salife/pets/stories/MYSA072907.2P.rosenthal.1e81308.html

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