With their eyeballs, not their earballs; that is how a deaf dog listens to the world around him.
In order to communicate with Edison, to keep him safe and to help him make better decisions, look at me is one of the first signs we taught him. He checks in with us frequently, looking to us for direction. It’s an important behavior to teach every deaf dog and it’s pretty easily done. Here are some videos.
There are times, however, when Edison just isn’t interested in all the fascinating things I have to say. He seems to know that if he doesn’t look at me, he won’t have to hear about my day, my plans for the future or how I would love it if he would stop! no! quit! snacking from the litter box.
In those moments when he is pretty sure that his opinion matters more than mine, he simply looks away. He doesn’t turn his whole head. No, he just averts his eyes and stares at the most interesting speck of blank space he has ever seen. I’ve never seen what fascinates him so, but I do know that it lives somewhere above and to the left of my shoulder. This streak of stubbornness is quirky and frustrating, but once you extract the feces from his mouth and sufficient time passes, it is also charming and endearing. This is true of most things. I mean, with enough distance, even my mother is tolerable.
When this happens, I distract him with something of higher value and immediately begin to positively reinforce watch me in repetition. It isn’t always easy and, to be honest, sometimes I have to take a very deep breath before proceeding, but this is an important learning opportunity. Both he and I need to know that he is going to watch, to listen. Training isn’t always easy but the rewards are worth the effort, and knowing he will always listen is essential. Once he does, the extraordinary bond between a deaf dog and his boy can blossom.