Deaf Dog Safety 101:
Easy Tips to Keep Your Deaf Dog Safe
Sharing your life with a deaf dog involves many responsibilities, but due the unique needs of deaf dogs, deaf dog safety is especially important- like right up there with food, water and shelter. Deaf dog safety involves many things, including planning ahead, being vigilant about their surroundings at all times and staying in constant communication with your deaf dog among others. Here are some deaf dog safety tips.
Confession Time! I am a proudly overprotective deaf dog pet parent. Once reason is that being a “helicopter dad” is just in my DNA, but equally important is my experience and lessons learned from working as a veterinary technician in shelter medicine. During those years, I spent every day seeing everything that can go wrong- and does. Those lessons taught me that having a deaf dog safety plan in place will help keep my deaf dogs out of harm’s way. I hope these deaf dog safety tips will help you develop a deaf dog safety plan that fits your and your dogs lifestyle.
Deaf Dog Safety Tips #1: Microchip Your Dog
Though this is excellent advice for any dog, it’s especially important if your dog is deaf. Most microchip companies allow you to include any medical or special needs to your dog’s profile. That said, having worked in shelter medicine for several years, I know this information isn’t automatically communicated unless the caller asks for it.
Every time I called to track a microchip, I had to ask if there were any medical or special needs notes that I needed to be aware of. Not once was this information offered to me. I experienced this with every microchip company I contacted, not just one or two.
Because of this, I include “I’m Deaf” in both Edison and Foster’s name. In their microchip profile, my deaf dog’s names are “Edison I’m Deaf” and “Foster I’m Deaf”. This way, I know that their deafness will be very clear if someone looks up their microchip profile.
Deaf Dog Safety Tips #2: Identification and “I’m Deaf” Tags
Just like with their microchip profile, both Edison and Foster have ID tags that includes “I’m Deaf” in their name. For example, “Edison I’m Deaf”. Their ID tags also include both my and my husband’s cell phone number.
They also have a second tag that is engraved with “I’m Deaf” in English and Spanish (“Soy Sordo/ Soy Sorda”) on both sides.
Bilingual tags are important for me based on the demographics of Miami. The demographics where you live may be different and you may want to consider other language options, if any at all.
Deaf Dog Safety Tips #3: Vests or Doodie Pack
Each of my deaf dogs has a vest that indicates that he is deaf. There are many options out there and I think most will satisfy your needs. However, I’m partial to the Doodie Pack. These packs are extremely well-made, have pockets on both sides and can have personalized monogramming added to fit your taste, style and preference. Each of my dogs has a personalized Doodie Pack with my blog’s log, name and URL- because why shouldn’t they be walking billboards promoting my brand?
Deaf Dog Safety Tips #4: Harnesses, Leashes and Collars
I think every dog, but especially a deaf dog, should be wearing a collar and a harness when outdoors. Tags ALWAYS go on the collar, never a harness. I recommend a harness because dogs can, and will, pull out of a collar. Though a proper fitting harness is definitely more secure, it is also more comfortable for your dog. It displaces pressure away from the neck and trachea and onto the body. For every day use, I prefer the Petsafe® Easy Walk® harness or The French Dog’s “I’m Deaf” matching harness, leash and collar set which I discuss here.
Deaf Dog Safety Tips #5: Teach Your Vet & Pet Sitter Hand Signs
Because my deaf dogs frequently go to work with me, I have taught some basic hand signs to my coworkers. Most of them know the sign for “watch me”, “no”, “sit”, “stay”, “go there” and “drop it”. I have also taught the staff at their veterinarian’s office these same basic hand signs. Our pet sitter is deaf, so teaching him hand signs was unnecessary. If we had a hearing pet sitter who didn’t know ASL, I would teach these same basic signs to her or him as well.
I chose to teach simple control signs that allow the staff to gain or maintain control of Edison and Foster in the event that they need to move them to safety or keep them from a dangerous situation.
Deaf Dog Safety Tips #6: GPS Devices
There are many GPS devices available, costing between a few dollars and a few hundred dollars. Each device has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Some are attached to a collar and some clip on and can be removed. I personally have tried ands like the Nuzzle Smart Collar. You read my thoughts on this GPS collar here.
Deaf Dog Safety Tips #7: Training Training Training
Consistent reinforcement training throughout your dog’s life not only makes your life together more enjoyable, it ensures that he or she is watching you for communication and will follow through on a signed command without fail. When faced with an unexpected danger or situation, there is no better feeling than knowing he will stay, drop the Bufo toad or come back to you immediately.
Deaf Dog Safety Tips #8: Never Teach a Stay Release
I never teach my deaf dogs a stay release sign. Ever. When I put them in a stay, I want them to stay until I use directional signs to move them where I want or need them to go. I’m sure some of my dog trainer friends will roll their eyes at this one and I’m okay with that. I would rather their eye-rolling than Edison or Foster breaking a stay at the absolute worst time.
Deaf Dog Safety Tips #9: Never Off-leash in an Open Area
I personally do not think a deaf dog should ever be off-leash if he is not in an enclosed area. I don’t care how reliable you think your recall is, for me, it just isn’t worth the risk. If you do work, exercise or play with your deaf dog off-leash in an unfenced area, I strongly recommend researching vibration collars (never use a shock collars!) to use for recall.
If you do decide a vibration collar is appropriate for you and your dog, it’s important to use them properly. Please consult a professional dog trainer with experience with vibration collars (and hopefully deaf dogs) before you start using it. Introducing the vibrating collar in a slow, controlled, humane way is critical. Do your research before you strap it on and send your dog into the woods.
Deaf Dog Safety Tips #10: Lock Your Doors
Ok, so I’m a bit of a freak. I’m overprotective, and proudly so, but this bit of advice is a lesson I learned from one of our hearing dogs, Darwin.
One day, after a walk, I closed the screen door but not the solid wood door. It’s Miami after all, and I need a cross breeze. After unleashing the dogs and going into the kitchen, I heard whining, then barking and then the screen door slam shut. I freaked when I realized the screen door hadn’t closed completely and Darwin had run out into the front yard.
Darwin, simply curious about and wanting to meet the dog he saw walking down the street towards the dog park, pushed open the almost-closed, unlocked door and greeted the other dog like any good pibble: directly, in his face and rudely (for non-Pibble breeds at least).
The dog he greeted was not dog-friendly but thanks to a smart owner who was thinking quick on his feet, and Darwin coming back to me when I called, a disaster was averted.
By ensuring your door is closed and locking it for extra-safety, your deaf dog will never wander out to smell the flowers or into the street with no one to warn him of oncoming cars, dogs or other dangers.
Deaf Dog Safety Tips #11: Look Around and Communicate
When out in public with your deaf dog, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and changes in your environment. If someone walks out from behind a parked truck, or a car is rumbling down the road, or a small child is approaching him from behind while shopping at PetCo, it’s important to be aware of these things and to communicate them to your dog. By pointing out things in your environment that your deaf dog isn’t aware off- remember, if he can’t see it, he can’t hear it- you are helping him respond more appropriately and avoid any startle responses.
These are my personal recommendations and are just my opinion. If you have other ideas or suggestions, please share them. I’m sure we all want to know how you keep your deaf dog safe.