The DDN helps owners to think outside the box when it comes to training a deaf dog. Karen, who owns two deaf dogs, said: "Sometimes it's a case of stepping back and asking yourself: ‘What can I do for this dog?'. "Quite a lot of owners use a torch light as a clicker, so that the light marks the right behaviour and the dog gets a treat. "One woman used coloured triangles to let her dog know where she was in the house. "One of the main things people ask me is how to recall a deaf dog. It's all about teaching them around the home at first and then building it up so that the dog keeps his eyes on you. "A long line can be used to teach this in the first instance. Some people use vibrating collars. "Plenty of our members do agility and flyball with their dogs. "Many owners of deaf dogs say that they work better than a dog with hearing, and that the relationship they build with them is a step up."
Karen's Boxer, Golumm, who was born deaf, has been trained to respond to various hand signals. She explained that there wasn't a standard set of signals for a deaf dog to learn - it was more a case of whatever worked best for a particular dog and owner. "The most common hand signals I use are watch me, recall, and sit," she said. "When Golumm's on the lead, if I tug very gently he'll come to me. To him, that tug means turn around to look at me or come to me. "For recall, I wait for him to look at me and then give a hand signal - there are various ones I use. If he's a long way off I put my arms out and channel him where I want him to go."If I put my hand or arm out and give a wave this gives him permission to go. "It really all depends on the owner and the dog and what suits them."
The idea for the DDN came through Karen's work as a deaf dog foster carer for rescue charities. She noted that many centres didn't have enough foster carers with deaf dog experience and that it took longer to rehome a dog without hearing because of the myths surrounding them. "I also realised that people sometimes end up with a deaf dog without knowing it, and I wondered where they went for help," she added. Karen and Jaq, who have more than 40 years' experience working with deaf dogs between them, launched the DDN and created a dedicated website and Facebook page.
Hundreds of fans
Within six months, the group's Facebook page had received hundreds of enquiries and responses. More than 700 people, comprising owners, charities, and trainers, are now members of the DDN Facebook group. "We were astounded by the number of people who came on board," said Karen. The DDN's website is having a revamp; once up and running it will be more interactive with training videos, photos, and a place for people to share their stories. "It's not just for us, the organisers, but a community for owners of deaf dogs," added Karen.
The DDN attends events across the country giving out advice and literature on deafness in dogs, and puts on demonstrations showing people all the things members' dogs can do."We've managed to save deaf pups by persuading some breeders not to cull them," said Karen. "We tell these breeders that they don't have to cull the puppies as we have foster carers and will take responsibility for them. "Our long-term goal is to become a deaf dog rescue charity."
The DDN needs volunteers to help with events, research, and general admin tasks. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/thedeafdognetwork or www.thedeafdognetwork.webs.com.