Living With a Deaf Dane

It's happened... You have waited for a Great Dane puppy for years and you finally walk into a breeder's home... The litter scampers at your feet, beautiful harlequins and black puppies abound. You feel heady from the scent of puppy breath filling the air. You are in love! But the initial conundrum of every Great Dane owner hits you- which puppy to choose? You hug a scantily spotted harlequin to your chest with one hand as the other tickles the tummy of a black pup. Your eyes take in the litter- 6, 7... You thought the breeder had mentioned eight puppies.

"Did someone else buy a pup before me? I thought there were eight.” you enquire innocently.

Now the breeder looks down, abashedly, "No, no... I have a little boy that I figured no one would want."

You notice her eyes trail over to the x-pen in the corner of the room. Snuggled deep into the blankets in one corner, pink belly exposed to the world, is the sweetest Great Dane puppy you have ever seen. You feel the breath catch in your chest; you feel your heart swell as you move over to the x-pen and scoop the puppy into your arms.

Unlike his littermates, this puppy is almost completely white- like an angel, you think. A black spot marks one side and eyeliner traces his sleepy blue eyes, as he gazes up at you in adoration. This is the puppy you have waited your whole life for- this puppy is right for you.

Then the breeder states simply and quietly, "He's deaf. I should have culled him at birth, but I couldn't. I don't know what we are going to do with him- no one wants a deaf dog."

No one? You look at this puppy, which has already snuggled into your arms and fallen fast asleep and you ask yourself, "No one wants a deaf dog?"

* * *

It's happened... The deaf Great Dane bug has bitten you and you don't know what to do. You've owned dogs before, perhaps even a Great Dane, but you have never owned a 'handicapped' dog before! Can you do this?

The resounding answer is- yes, you can.

First of all, let's dispel the idea that deaf Great Danes, born into this world with a lack of hearing due to their bloodline, are 'handicapped'. These puppies are not handicapped; yes, they are missing a sense in the form of hearing, but they do not even realize they are missing something that other dogs possess. They do not mourn their difference; they do not yearn to be 'the same as all the other dogs'. They were born into silence and to their viewpoint silence is normal. Perhaps to a deaf Great Dane, who relies upon their keen sense of smell, sight, and feel, hearing Great Danes would be 'handicapped' for possessing a less keen version of these other senses.

Initially, you will feel sympathetic towards your pup. Over the first week, however, you are bound to realize that these puppies are as happy, go-lucky as any Great Dane pup around! Perhaps more so! After all, a deaf Great Dane puppy never need interrupt a nap due to someone disrupting them and they even have an excuse for not listening to their new Moms and Dads. Sympathy quickly turns to pride as you learn that your puppy has adapted and overcame its deafness. You'll even find yourself informing complete strangers of your dog's deafness, because typically, they will not notice this trait on their own.

What about the stories you've heard? If you haven't been exposed to the dreaded 'deaf dog myths' yet, as soon as you tell someone you are adopting (or have adopted) a deaf Great Dane, you are ensured to hear these stories. According to the masses, which heard from their sister who was told by a friend of her late cousin, deaf dogs (not just Great Danes) are veritable time bombs, waiting to explode upon an unexpecting owner. Wake a deaf dog and you are destined to be bit! Startle a deaf dog and it may rip you to shreds!

How can this be true, you will think, as you picture the adorable puppy at home?

It's not true. No more then the 'facts' that all Pit bulls are abiding their time to viciously murder their owners or all Chihuahuas are nervous yippy wrecks. A deaf Great Dane is first of all a Great Dane. Its hearing does not nullify its breed status. Great Danes are solid characters, known for their gentle behavior, their silly antics, and their ability to make a good family pet. Does that sound like a dog that will turn on you in an instant?

No.

There are suggestions available through various deaf dog groups as well as websites as to training your dog not to startle awake. As long as you bring home a Great Dane puppy, you will not need to condition your puppy to being awakened by your hand. After all, pups are used to being roused by their fellow littermates, mother, and breeder.

If you are beginning with an adult or a teenager, it is highly recommended that you use the ‘waking’ suggestions listed on these websites*. This has absolutely nothing to do with deafness, but the fact remains that all unknown Great Danes should be treated with respect and should earn your trust just as you earn theirs.

As far as a deaf Great Dane suddenly turning aggressive, due inherently to its lack of hearing, I have never heard a deaf Great Dane owner relay any story that supports this theory. Most individuals who claim that deaf dogs will suddenly turn berserk have never owned a deaf dog or while owning a deaf dog, they did not respect the human/canine boundary within their relationship. This is not the fault of the dog.

What human/canine boundary am I speaking of? Although we have been raised in a society that views our dogs as our children, you must remember- they are still dogs. If you react aggressively towards them, to punish them, they may react aggressively back in defense. You need to respect your dog- whether he or she is deaf or not.

Now that you understand that the myths are simply that- stories people made up due to lack of knowledge in regard to deaf Great Danes- the next issue your mind may turn towards is training a deaf Great Dane.

Training a Dane may or may not be an easy task; it depends upon the willingness (or stubbornness) of the Great Dane. This fact, however, is the same whether the Dane possesses hearing or is deaf. While you may not use verbal cues to train a deaf Great Dane, you will find many visual cues that work as efficiently. In fact, it is claimed that dogs respond to visual cues before audio cues; this means that your dog responds to your gestures (sit, stay) before he/she actually processes the verbal command you have just given. Therefore, teaching your Great Dane obedience through visual cues (i.e. sign language) is typically an easier task then one expects. A hot dog for a treat, a rub behind the ears, after a correctly performed task will earn you the same result from a deaf Great Dane as it would a hearing one.

The one issue that should be brought up at this point is that oftentimes, deaf Great Danes do not have excellent vision. The genes that lead to their inability to hear also typically affects their vision. When you are training your Dane, pay attention to their reactions to your signals. You may need to create more grandiose signs if your Dane has extremely bad vision.

There is only one issue, in regard to training, that might still concern a future owner. Regardless of the degree of your Great Dane's training, it is never recommended to have your dog off-leash in an unfenced area. While this may seem like a hindrance, it is simply for the safety of your Dane. Since your Dane cannot hear your commands, if something grabs his/her attention and they take flight after it, you will be unable to 'call' your Great Dane back.

Finally, there is the misguided idea present in some individuals' minds that a deaf Great Dane cannot be a happy Great Dane. If you take five minutes to watch a deaf Dane romp, snooze, or simply stare in adoration at its owner, you will realize how misguided this idea is. Deaf Great Danes are not mourning the loss of their hearing; they are celebrating life as only a Great Dane can! Through play, food, and love... Just like all Great Danes.


* * *

You wanted to be sure of your decision and therefore, you asked the breeder to hold the little white pup for a day while you think your decision through... The choice, in your heart, is already made, but you use the resources at hand, the Internet, your local Great Dane clubs, to ensure you are making the right decision. The image of that deaf pup, the feel of his body in your arms, plays throughout your dreams that night.

Knowing the answer, in your heart as well as your mind, you pick up the phone and dial the number to your breeder. "

"Yes, Lucy? Yes, this is Sara. I want him. I want your deaf Great Dane puppy."

(The author for this article wishes to remain anonymous. For permission to reproduce this article, please send me an Email)

*Make sure to check out these sites!

       
        
       






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If you are concerned that your great dane may be deaf, and want to find out for sure, a Baer (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test is the only way to positively confirm the diagnosis. Read more about Baer Testing here:        
-For all your deaf dog questions!
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