View Full Version : Deafness

Joanne M
26th November 2006, 01:33 AM
I noticed a few different posters who mentioned their cavaliers were deaf. Is this a common affliction? Coincidentally, I've taught Tucker some sign language like; no, sit, stay, and play. I have a sister that is deaf and I know sign language. It seemed natural to use signs to reinforce words. Those of you with deaf dogs, do you use sign language ?

26th November 2006, 02:11 AM
I took several classes of sign language in college and my professor was completely deaf. I loved watching him sign because the language is just so beautiful. Once you really pay attention, many of the meanings of the words and hand gestures correlated, so it was easier to pick up then I expected. Also simple words had such graceful and beautiful signs that it made the english language even more beautiful!

I use hand signs with my dogs even though they are fully hearing. I think it helps them to identify what you want. I am sure just like kids (and hubbies :D ) they start to tune out your voice after a while so the hand gestures are just another reinforcer. Also, in the future if there is any issues with hearing, they won't have to learn anything new!

26th November 2006, 02:13 AM
In Lucky's training class they teach us both the hand signals (which might not actually be sign language) for the commands and we teach that first and then add on the verbal command. The reason they explained was for precisely that reason - because if your dog ever goes blind or deaf he'll understand your commands anyway.

26th November 2006, 02:37 AM
I also do hand signals with Kosmo. In addition to having a chance that he might be deaf one day, I've also found that he is MUCH better in responding to me when I use hand signals vs just voice commands.

26th November 2006, 11:57 AM
PSOM (Primary secretory otitis media - hope I've spelt that properly) is quite common in the breed.

Karlin has a section on it here http://cavaliertalk.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=560

Maxx suffers from this and can only hear certain sounds. I do use hand signals with him and he always knows what I want. He's such a little angel, bless him. Sometimes he can tell by the look on my face, exactly what I want. Saying that, he might be able to read my mind :yikes what if he knows what I've got him for Christmas???? :yikes :lol:

26th November 2006, 01:56 PM
Yes, deafness is well known in the breed. A lot of researchers think, as Donna notes, that it is related to PSOM, which is just like glue ear in human children.

Joanne M
26th November 2006, 03:04 PM
I'm glad I didn't read about all the conditions associated with this breed before I got him, I might have been too frightened to take one on, and missed out on this wonderful guy.

26th November 2006, 07:40 PM
I'm deaf, and both my dogs are trained to gesture as well as voice. Really, I think dogs respond better to gesture- it's more visual, and they don't need to worry about nuances of tone. I use British Sign Language variations with my pair- but only if I can do them one handed. eg, 'quiet' and 'lie down' are variations. They're also trained to the whistle for recall- which obviously is less than useful for a deaf dog. There was an article in one of this month's dog mags on training deaf dogs if you're interested. Actually, maybe you should just check out the RNID- there are probably a lot of similarities in communication strategies, regardless of species!

..and remember, NEVER try to command a deaf dog while standing in front of a bright window.

Joanne M
26th November 2006, 08:01 PM
On the deaf topic, but regarding children, my sister that is deaf has two little girls, her husband is hearing, as is all my family. My sister used sign with her girls since they were infants and they began communicating in sign by the age of 9 months. Now, even in my family where children are very verbal and talk young, none of the babies were doing much more than saying mumma at 9 months. Cheryl's babies learned language younger because of the signlanguage. That is what inspired me to begin signing with Tucker. I especially use it while he's in the car, with the windows rolled up. I try to only take him out of the car, from the back passenger side. I will not open the door until he is sitting and staying, from outside the car I sign, sit and stay. Guess I should confess that I do not use a dog carrier, car seat and I gave up on the tiny dog harness, while riding in the car, instead I just keep Tucker in the back seat of my Toyota Corolla, a small car with high bucket seats in the front and back.

26th November 2006, 08:17 PM
A lot of dogs that are mostly deaf can still hear many high and low frequencies so often a whistle will work for recall, for example.

It is well established that that dogs will respond more reliably to a sign as opposed to a cue. There are a lot of likely reasons -- eg the sign is consistent whereas voice or intonation may vary; signs can be seen at a distance; background noise doesn't interfere.

It used to be standard in training classes in the 60s and 70s when my parents trained our family dog, to teach both a verbal cue AND a sign. There are a range of standard signs for sit, down, stay etc but these don;t seem to be rotuinely taught any longer. When I was a kid we always gave both the command and the sign because that is how we learned to work with our pyrenees.

Most of my training books suggest teaching a sign as well as a verbal cue and one has a blank space at the back next to each cue so that you can write in your sign for the cue.

I do know teaching babies sign language is a new trend with some parents, even if the parents and baby are hearing, because of the reasons noted -- they are able to communicate at an earlier age. I rceall studies show children pretty much even out by about age three though. :)

There's a whole website for teaching deaf dogs too!


26th November 2006, 11:09 PM
Yeah- if the kids are hearing!! If they're deaf it can sometimes be a whole other kettle of fish- BSL's grammatical structure is completely different from English, so imagine the problems that can pose. Also, generally speaking, sign language does not have the range of vocab necessary in spoken language- mainly because one sign can express a wide range of concepts/ terms. Then again, I know exceptions to this rule: I know children trained with oralism, who would probably have performed better with a more flexible approach (ie, sign for support) and very carefully taught English lessons (essentially, English as a foreign language)... and I know kids from several generations of Deaf signing families who perform on a par with their hearing counterparts, given the right support. :roll: Like anything else, at the end of the day it comes down to intelligence, literacy levels, home environment.... I've known (and taught) hearing children who had very poor written and spoken language.

Eeek, and I've derailed badly.

:yikes :yikes Couldn't resist. :badgrin:

Joanne M
27th November 2006, 12:49 AM
glad you hopped on board :)

Cathy Moon
27th November 2006, 11:32 AM
Hi Joanne, when I teach my pups obedience commands I use a hand/body signal for each command. Also, in agility I use hand signals. All of my dogs know my hand signals for sit, stay, go, down, up, move, move out, move in, and move in any direction. I'm glad I did this from the beginning of training, because Geordie was deaf (now recovered) and India seems to be hard of hearing. :)

Joanne M
27th November 2006, 02:26 PM
Tucker has had no obedience training. Between me and my little 6 yr old niece (I'm not kidding) we've taught him, sit, stay, no, lay down, up and usually he comes when I call him, though at times I have to coax him with a bribe. As for agility I think if Tucker had a more active mum he could do lots of things. He's so fast, he catchs balls after one hop, the mini tennis balls, he retrieves, and drops toys right in my lap. He's made some leaps that have surprised me. I play ball with him in the house. Take him on walks, and we play catch/retrieve out in the yard, but I think he could be doing much more.

27th November 2006, 07:43 PM
Tucker sounds like a smart little guy (besides being cute)! We teach hand signals for all the dogs. I find that mine will respond to the hand signal alot quicker than to a verbal cue.