Deaf dogs, more than hearing dogs, tend to be very touch-sensitive. Perhaps living in a silent world increases their tactile sensory perception. Maybe this is because we use our hands as our primary form of communication. Or perhaps they’re just mammals and, like humans, when one sense is diminished or non-existent, the other five senses become more heightened and important to experiencing and understanding the world around them. I can’t give you a definitive answer today, but…
I have been in communication with a university-based scientist here in the United States who is studying deaf dog behavior. She is looking at if and how deaf dog behavior is different than hearing dogs. I’m hoping to sit down with her for a more formal chat and, fingers crossed, maybe even visit her animal behavior laboratory! Perhaps through these conversations I can glean more information on the mechanics of the why and how deaf dogs at least appear to be more sensitive to touch.. If so, that will be a party time blog post that I will share high and wide with anyone who will listen! What a cool post that would be!
In the meantime, I can only offer my own first hand experience and that of other deaf dog pet parents. Deaf dogs do seem to be more sensitive to being touched. This isn’t to say that they are more prone to startling and fear biting; rather, it is a phenomenon that deaf dog pet parents are aware of. We keep it in the forefront of our minds and, if need be, modify our physical interactions with our deaf dogs.
Anyone experienced with deaf dogs will tell you that, especially during training, using R+ methods (positive reinforcement) is a MUST. Obviously, this approach is more humane and more effective. However, with deaf dogs, there is another important reason to use R+ training methods: your hands, which function as your words and communication lifeline to your dog, must always be a positive experience. Never use your hands to push or pull or punish! Like, never ever not even once ever!
This deaf dog preference for gentle touching extends to most every day-to-day activity. Whether petting or nail trims or brushing, soft, gentle contact with your deaf dog should always be the goal. My deaf dog Edison especially enjoys soft circles of touching and rubbing much more than scratching or petting. I always greet him with a “doggie massage” rather than a pet or earnest scratch behind the ears. And grooming? Well, that can always be a challenge. He accepts it, but he’s definitely not happy about it. Fortunately, I have thoughtful, fantastic friends in both high (and low) places.
One of these friends recently sent me a box of Groom Genies, a new brush designed for touch sensitive dogs. She knew that deaf dogs can be especially sensory sensitive and thought of me and my deaf boys. They were a gift to me deaf dogs, which Edison & Co. always love! Like I said, it’s good to have friends!
The Groom Genie is actually not a new product, so much as it is a redesigned human product that has been reconfigured to meet the the needs of dogs who, because of high stress levels, long, tangled, painful knots, deafness, blindness, fear or bad life experiences are more responsive to both pleasant and unpleasant touch. The ergonomic design also has pet parents in mind as well.
The Groom Genie is based on the same principle and is designed to meet the same needs as the The Knot Genie; easily detangling long hair without pulling or causing pain and relaxing with a gentle massaging touch. The Knot Genie became very successful and caught the attention of many media outlets, includes the “Today Show”, ”Good Morning America” and “The Huffington Post”
What the company behind Groom Genie soon found was that pet parents were purchasing the Knot Genie for their dogs! Being focused on their mission to help people and now pets in need, the Knot Genie folks went back to the drawing board and designed a product specifically for dogs: The Groom Genie.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFJsuXKIzJo]
The Groom Genie has soft, gentle bristles that both groom your dog and relax him at the same time. As you know, my small pony-size dogs have short hair, so I tend to be a #BadPetParent when it comes to grooming. However, I adore these brushes for the stress-reduction benefits and relaxation they provide my deaf dogs. The brush is designed so that it fits naturally in your hand and brushing feels more like petting than brushing, a more pleasurable experience for both ends of the Groom Genie.
There have been many studies about the positive, healthy relationship between petting and touching a dog for humans. We also know that pleasant touch is a positive experience for the dogs that we adore. The Groom Genie feels like I’m petting my dogs, which deepens the bond between us and relaxes us both.
When a product turns a chore like grooming into a pleasant, bonding moment and increases the amount of quality-time I spend with my deaf dogs, I can’t help but jump on board! The light color base of the brush also helps pet parents identify medical issues, such as the presence of fleas, flea dirt or ticks.
I love having the Groom Genie at home. While watching television or slowly slipping into an afternoon nap with Edison, I can pet and brush him, leaving us both more relaxed and connected. Look here to get more information on picking up a Groom Genie for your own deaf dog. If you share your life and home with a deaf puppy or smaller deaf dog, check out the Teeny Groom Genie for smaller dogs!