My dogs are now 9 and 10. It crossed my mind that Goldie may be losing her hearing.
I snapped my fingers near her ears. No response.
I called her to me. No response.
I was starting to get worried. Was she really getting a little deaf? Then later that day, I opened a bag of treats in the pantry. Out of nowhere, she appeared, ears perked. Goldie only has selective hearing.
But the reality is, as we age, becoming partially or completely deaf is a possibility. Mind you, only a possibility. It’s not written in stone.
If it does happen, what to do?
If you find your best friend losing her hearing, adjustments need to be made. And remember she can’t hear you now so be patient. Try to feel how her world has become. It can be scary for a creature with such a sharp sense to lose it, whether suddenly or over time. Try to help her feel more secure, comfortable, and safe.
1. Hand signals
Luckily, we’ve always combined hand signals with our voice signals. This has been handy when we are unable to speak to our dog, like when the vet is already speaking to them or we are having a conversation. There are some universally-used hand signals but really, whatever works. Just be consistent and start incorporating them now, when your dog can more easily associate the hand signals with the voice signals, and reward with high-value treats to reinforce the training.
It’s important now to be more aware of walking your dog and letting her off-leash. As they age, their overall responsiveness may diminish. It’s best to keep them on a leash when near and in traffic areas. A secure area for off-leash is best.
Also be aware that as they can’t hear or hear as well, they may be less efficient at realizing another dog is communicating with certain body language and misunderstandings may arise more easily.
I found this storm whistle online. I’m not sure if your neighbor will appreciate it, but this is apparently the loudest whistle on the market. If you still want to allow your dog to roam off-leash, you may need to use something like this as a recall tool. Again, start training your dog now with high-value treats.
I think now that your dog is really showing signs of aging, it’s a good time to interact with them more. By no means am I saying the end is near but it’s a good reminder to us that time is limited. Also the extra attention will help assure your dog in an uncertain world. She may be feeling uneasy and your love is comforting and supportive.
If you have more than one animal in the house, you may also need to monitor their communications a little more. They won’t know they are ignoring the other’s warnings or invitations to play.
One more thing – your dog will be less aware in her environment now. That includes not knowing someone is approaching her. Try to minimize startling her by coming from a direction she can see you.
note: reduced hearing can non-aging-related so visit a vet to rule out other possibilities such as an infection