The Silent Dilemma

Guest post by Alexandria Forsberg

I was at work the other day when a client walked in with his Black Labrador. We chatted for a moment, and I mentioned that I recently rescued a 16 week old deaf Australian Cattle Dog puppy from being euthanized.

He was not impressed and admitted he actually wasn’t opposed to euthanizing deaf dogs. I was shocked. He started by saying there are two problems with deaf dogs, they hurt the breed of dog, and they are ‘dangerous’ to people. I’ll tackle these each individually in the following paragraphs.

Brodie

About hurting the breed… I agree wholeheartedly. Breeding deaf dogs will result in more deaf dogs, it has been proven to be hereditary and that should never be overlooked. If the idea is to make the breed stronger, smarter, or ‘insert characteristic’ then having a bunch of puppies being born deaf is probably counterproductive to the overall wellness and the future of the breed.

Doesn’t mean we need to kill them. Literally killing a puppy born over 4 weeks prior. It’s not terminating a pregnancy, it’s putting a newborn dog to death. I mentioned spay and neutering options. He seemed hesitant to agree that that would be a comparable option, but failed to mention why.

Congenital deafness, like what Brody was born with, is almost always hereditary caused by a gene that controls the amount of white pigmentation the dog’s coat has. It also controls the hair cells inside the dog’s ear, which stop developing properly when this gene is too prevalent at about 4 weeks old. 22% of Dalmatians, 12% of Australian Cattle Dogs, 11% of Bull Terriers, 10% of English Setters, 10% of Jack Russell Terriers, and 41% of Catahoula Leopard Dogs will be born with uni or bilateral hearing loss. Almost all of which will be euthanized.

On to the second issue.

The word ‘dangerous’ was used.

Dangerous. This is a serious accusation. But let’s look at the logic behind this. Scientifically, being deaf does not cause increased aggression, at all. But I’ll be honest. All dogs bite or at least can. Part of owning a dog is knowing that there is always that possibility. Ideally, an owner develops a relationship with their pet that includes mutual respect and love and from that they learn their role as a submissive companion. Celebrated dog trainers around the world agree that if a dog is trained properly with a dominate strong figure, there is little chance of an attack or bite.

Cesar Millan, also known as the Dog Whisperer, openly states that he doesn’t believe any dog is beyond rehabilitation (and that’s after the dog has ALREADY displayed aggression). Aggression comes from the environment. Even dogs that have already attacked and killed people have been successfully reintroduced to society. We often allow previously aggressive dogs to be rehabilitated and trained, we don’t euthanize every dog because it was born with a predisposition for aggression, we wouldn’t have dogs if that were the case.

Being a dog owner (deaf or not) is a challenging and amazing experience, but too often people don’t realize that discipline needs to start early and be consistent and enforced even in young puppies. Instead of becoming a strong dominate authoritative figure to their companion, owners get upset and frustrated and this reflects as unstable to the dog. This makes the dog feel like it’s their job to protect you (because they can’t depend on you being consistent), and thus you end up with a more aggressive dog.

When an owner corrects a dogs actions they must be consistent and firm as well as calm and assertive. Aggressive behavior is something that needs to be watched carefully from the beginning in ANY DOG and proper training is especially important when the dog has a condition that other don’t know about or that might make it susceptible to increased aggression. This includes any dog that was breed for a purpose in my opinion. Herding dogs bite (like Blake and Brody), it’s bred into them to bite the heels of cattle, guard dogs bite, also bred into the breed, hunting dogs bite, even lap dogs bite (I learned that the hard way). If you can train a hearing-abled dog to not bite, or TO bite, than training a deaf dog is no different.

So what’s the deal exactly with this myth? Well, the whole aggression thing is blown way out of proportion.

Deaf animals and people interpret the world a little differently than others because they have a different perspective of their environment. I can’t pretend that my dogs are perfect or the best behaved, but it’s obvious that they are happy, and that makes the biggest difference to me. I really wish I had more time to explain my position on deaf dog aggression to this man, he seemed fairly well informed, but lacked basic experience with these dogs.

I have found that most people who oppose deaf dogs as pets, have never interacted with one or gotten to know one, probably because so many of them are euthanized, which is the whole problem. It’s hard to hear many success stories when they aren’t given a chance to survive long enough to get adopted. I’m just asking for the chance for others to learn about these amazing creatures and hopefully dispel some of the nasty rumors about them and hopefully Save Deaf Dogs!

Thank you so much for your time, please check out www.savedeafdogs.com for more info!!

alex@savedeafdogs.com

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You can find me on Twitter at @savedeafdogs

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5 thoughts on “The Silent Dilemma

  1. Thank you so much. We recently adopted a 100% deaf puppy. She is also 100% naked as a Peruvian Inca dog. She had 3rd degree burns when she was rescued as she is almost albino.
    She has incredible perceptions and sight and is made of pure love. But, has been a problem as she has not heard the older dogs warning growls when she was pushing them too far. This is increasingly improving. But we welcome any suggestions.
    http://www.deafdog.org is very helpful and we recommend a NON shock vibrating collar to alert the dog to see hand signals.
    I am also hoping to work with the great Maureen Ross.

  2. I loved the whole blog today. I am not a dog lover, but I don’t think things need to be discarded because they have flaws. By the way, I go to thrift shops sometimes.

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