Signing with animals
Human interest in communicating with animals (and perhaps also true for vice versa) has been around for a long time.
Communication is not limited to the hearing domain. The visual domain is also largely used within the larger domain of communication.
Humans and animals use different articulators of their bodies to communicate. Hearing humans use ears, vocal chord and gesturing hands. Deaf humans use hands, eyes, and faces. Animals use various parts of what they can communicate with.
Signing with deaf dogs
Dog owners commonly talk to their dogs. Canadian psychologist Stanley Coren explains that the canines "can understand 160-200 words, signs and signals, and produce about a quarter of those gestures themselves." (Edmonton Journal, June 21, 2002).
Congenital deafness is not uncommon among pure-bred dogs, such as Dalmatians, Collies, and some Terriers. Eventually from birth, deaf dogs rely on eyes, nose and vibration to "hear".
Naturally, deaf dogs use visual cues that they respond to, just the same way as hearing dogs react to sounds. The visual cues that deaf dogs react to can be vibration, moving shadow, light, and other peripheral movements.
- Instead of using sounds, use your hand signals, signs, and facial expressions.
- Put a dog tag stating the dog's name and deafness as well as your name and phone number around its collar.
- Put a bell on your dog's collar that you can hear where your dog is.
- Deaf dogs can understand as many signs as you'd like to teach.
You can train your deaf dog to pay attention to you when you call them. There are some different ways and possibilities to get your dog's attention:
- when waking up your dog, gently touch it in its common place (eg. shoulder) with love.
- wave with your hand
- stomp on the floor with your foot
- throw a foam ball or any non-harmful objects ahead of dogs
- a laser pointer (never let the laser light shine directly into your dog's eyes)
- a vibrating collar
- a flashlight in the dark or out at night
- turn the porch light off and on outside at night
- a mirror and sunlight
- and use your creativity!