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Deaf Dogs Roundtable

 

 

 

The words are for us, not for them

What do a seven year old Maltese, a Great Dane from New England, a double merle Border Collie and a nine month old Sheltie have in common? They all do agility and they're all deaf! Agilitynet has asked four handlers around the world to talk about their deaf dogs. Here they discuss the experiences they've had with their dogs, the problems and how they solved them.


First meet the dogs...
After all, they are the stars

Rambo
Breed: Maltese
Age: 7 years
Owner: Sue Weis

Merle the Barber
Breed: Shetland Sheepdog
Age: 9 months

Owner: Judy Fegan

Chess
Breed: Border Collie
Age: 1 1/2 years
Owner: Lindsay Stone

Nico
Breed: Great Dane
Age: 4 years
Owner: Beth Gutteridge

Question: Why did you choose a deaf dog?

Sue: I didn't choose Rambo; he chose me. He came to me as a rescue (to foster). He just attached himself to my heart, as well as bonding to my other dog Maggie. From the very beginning she seemed to understand that he couldn't hear. I never trained her, but when going out or for a walk all I have to ask is 'go get Rambo,' and she will go find him and nudge him awake.

Beth: Nico, my four years old Great Dane, has been training in agility since he was 4 1/2 months old. (The Dane didn't get bigger, the tunnel has just shrunk!) We have been active in programs for school children teaching disability awareness, nursing home demonstrations in agility and visiting high school psychology classes, discussing operant conditioning and shaping behaviours.

Judy: We had a litter in January and one puppy was a double merle. I knew that he would have a handicap which turned out to be hearing. Knowing that he would be handicapped, we chose to keep him and named him Merle for obvious reasons.

 Lindsay: My daughter Claire is now almost 12. We bought Chess about a year ago (born 23 April 1998) when she was six weeks old. The pup was destined to be Agility Champion, but we soon began to have doubts about her.

Question: How did you find out your dog was deaf?

Sue: The woman who gave him up didn't mention deaf, but she did say she thought he didn't hear very well. The first day I had him I came in from outside, and there was Rambo, asleep on the sofa. When he didn't move I thought he was sick or worse, but when I touched him and he woke up I knew he couldn't hear.

Judy: We did different noise tests and he responded to none of them. When Merle is asleep and we call or make any noise that does not include a vibration that he can feel, he does not respond.

Lindsay: At first we thought she was just naughty, but then one of our trainers had done a study about deaf dogs and we asked her to have a look. She did a few basic tests, but it wasn't until I had made the trek out to the Animal Health Trust at Newmarket to have her hearing tested that we could bring ourselves to believe that our puppy really was totally deaf. I was really worried about returning home to break the news to Claire, but she took it without a murmur and only said it made Chess even more special.

Question: What is the cause of the deafness?

Sue: I don't know, but my vet believes he has been deaf since birth and that it probably is genetic deafness. She feels that if it were the result of illness, he wouldn't be deaf in both ears.

Judy: Merle's deafness is colour related and not genetic. Let me try to explain. The merling gene is a gene that dilutes colour. If a tri-coloured (black, tan and white) sheltie has the merling gene the black is diluted to gray and it is a splotchy pattern. Therefore the dog will have gray, black, white and tan colours. This gene is a dominant gene.

Merle received two of these dominant genes which gives him a double dilution so what would have been gray was diluted down to white. This double dilution also causes handicaps. The dog could have been blind. We feel very fortunate that his handicap is deafness.

Question: What problems did you have living with a deaf dog?

Sue: You would think that there would be problems, but I cannot think of any. I am especially careful never to allow him off lead when out side, unless I am sure he is very safe. He is very sweet, but for some reason, he seems to be my dog more likely to be attacked by aggressive dogs, so I am very careful with him at trials.

Lindsay: Claire and I have taught her a lot of signals and she watches Claire all the time when we are out just wanting to be told to do something.

Judy: The only real problem that we have is when he is getting in trouble I can not verbally correct him from a distance. I have to make contact with him to show him that what he is doing is wrong. The other problem - and we have avoided it so far - is if he should get loose he would not hear our command to return.

Question: Do you have other dogs and if so how do they get on?

Sue: I have two other dogs - a Bichon/Maltese called Maggie Mae and a Border Collie, Chase. They get along very well.

Lindsay: Yes, we have three other dogs. Chess is never on the lead when out for walks, but she does have other dogs to follow and copy, but I notice that she is now prepared to go off out of sight of me and other dogs, but will always following that same route when returning to find us.

Judy: We have ten other dogs ranging from 12 years old to nine months old. All in all they all get along really well and tolerate the deaf puppy real well. Every once in awhile they have to correct the little upstart.

Question: How and why did you start agility? How long have you been doing it?

Sue: I wasn't going to train him, but during one winter I started working on obedience stuff, using hand signals and totally motivational methods. I was amazed at how quickly he learned. After finishing his U-CD, I decided to try agility. Again he very quickly learned and did very well.

Rambo has wonderful attention. He is very food motivated and has a wonderful work ethic. Once he knows what I want him to do he can't do it fast enough. He is also very smart and very quickly was doing very well. The best part is he loves working with me and has a great time!!!

Lindsay: Claire and I were already training our other two dogs so when she was six month old we took her along to the Agility Club. She proved to every bit as bold and willing to please as always, although progress has been slow in some areas, partly due to Claire's age and lack of experience I suspect. Once she knew what she was up against, she really worked hard with her.

 Beth: Nico, my four years old Great Dane has been training in agility since he was 4 1/2 months old, (The Dane didn't get bigger, the tunnels just shrunk!) We have been working at All Dogs Gym in Manchester, New Hampshire since he arrived in my life.

Judy: The dog training club that I belong to offers agility. I have played around with it off and on for about seven years but have never shown any dogs in agility. Our club offered a puppy agility course this summer and I enrolled the deaf dog plus two other of my puppies in this class.

Question: What special problems do you have on the agility course or in training with your dog?

Sue: Having trained a deaf agility dog, I can say it is far from difficult. In fact, with Rambo it is very easy. Rambo is only limited doing agility by his size and physical ability, not by his lack of hearing.

I am very careful not to change sides when he cannot see me - I always try to be where he expects me to be when exiting tunnels. He will never be good at Gamblers which requires distance control and I don't have a call off.

Lindsay: Training Chess has not really been a problem - until now. We are trying to get her to work away from Claire instead of watching her every second. I have contacted Helen Brown regarding this problem, and she gave us very useful advice on which we are now acting, involving toys and trying to throw the toy fast enough to get to the other side of the second jump before Chess has got there and come back. It certainly sharpens up the old reflexes!

Nico & BethBeth: We have worked to develop a series of hand signals for specific behaviours outside of agility and flyball like eat, big bark, whisper, ball, find the ball, turn, sit, down, stay, come, gives (either paw), back, no, good dog (visual click) and, of course, a sign for his name. I use a positive training method based on Karen Pryor and Gary Wilkes Clicker Training.

I have tried to keep the hand motions very simple and use body language for competing in the agility ring. Mostly, I point at the obstacle I want him to perform, but he has learned to do most of the obstacles if I run in the right direction and give him cues using my whole body. He does feel a vibration when I clap, however I tend use clapping to show him I am very happy with his behaviour after a run.

We have worked through many challenges that face handlers and their dogs which are the same challenges owners of hearing dogs face. How to keep your dog motivated and having fun in the ring.

Judy: Needless to say the big problem is that I can't call the different obstacles for him nor can I give him verbal direction such as come or go out. I have to rely on hand signals completely and if Merle is not paying attention to me he misses it until I can get his attention back. I am working with the puppy of some sign language. I am also using a blinker light as a clicker for praise. Being only a nine month old puppy his attention span is pretty short but improving.

Question: Are there any advantages to handling a deaf dog?

Sue: Rambo has much better attention to me than my hearing dogs. He simply follows my hand and body signals. He sometimes decides he knows where to go, and goes there - since I don't have a call off this can be a problem, but my hearing dogs sometimes do the same thing!!

Lindsay: Chess watches us constantly, always checking where we are and looking out for hand and body signals. Being a collie and desperate to please, she has learned to recognise the slightest of hand signals and even sits when I SAY sit, even when our other hearing collie decides not to just then - can collies lip read?! Seriously.

Question: Are you competing and if so, at what level?

Sue: Rambo competes in NADAC and USDAA agility (AKC does not allow deaf dogs). He has earned his Elite Agility and Jumpers title.

Lindsay: Hopefully, by Spring Claire and Chess will be competing, although I'm having a hard time convincing Claire that she will be able to do this.

Beth: I have been competing in trials with Nico for two years. We play all the fun games where we can make up our own course, except for those when we follow the course for jumpers. Nico has competed in two USDAA National Tournaments and also competes in Flyball.

Judy: No, I have not competed as yet. I'm hoping to do so in the future.

Question: Are there any special issues about running a deaf dog in agility?

Sue: As for training, I believe that basic obedience is very important for all dogs. With a deaf dog, attention is especially important.

Judy: Here in the States we cannot show a dog that is deaf in any American Kennel Club trials, shows, herding, etc. The only title that we can get through AKC is Canine Good Citizenship and Therapy Dog International. The other kennel club in The States is the United Kennel Club, Inc. and they allow deaf dogs to compete in all levels of agility and obedience. The Canadian Kennel Club also allows deaf dogs to compete in all levels of obedience. I am not sure if they have agility. They probably do, but I have not checked into it yet.

Question: What advice do you have for other people contemplating getting a deaf dog?

Sue: The most important thing, I repeat, is attention. From the very beginning this should be encouraged and trained. Once you have attention deaf dogs are not any harder to train than hearing dogs. Believe it or not, of my three dogs Rambo is the easiest to train!

Lindsay : To sum up, I suppose that given a choice I would not have taken on a deaf puppy, but Chess really is a special dog with a wonderful personality and we really would not be without her. Training her is a challenge, but at no stage have we really felt it to be any more difficult than with many other collies. We are also beginning to think that she may be fairly good at obedience since her powers of concentration and desire to please are simply endless.

 Beth : My philosophy is very simple. Become more FUN to be with than any other activity your dog has to choose from.

Judy : This is quite an honour to be able to tell everyone about working with a deaf dog. It's been a challenge but a very enjoyable one. Once you get that trust and attention from your dog, it is wonderful and an experience I am glad that I am experiencing.


P.S. I believe Nico's owner said he knows over 100 hand signals. The only mistakes I have ever seen on his runs is that he occasionally runs up to the judge looking for a hand signal.
Dawn Weber
Secretary, Eastern Maine Agility Club, Inc.


If you've had the pleasure of training a deaf dog to do agility, why not share your experiences with other handlers. Email your story to:- Agilitynet.


From Dayle Shimamura
I did not know about this article until now. I just read it, and loved it! It gives me a bit more perspective for training Orville (white bi-blue sheltie), as well as further demonstrating that deaf dogs can perform like any other dog. I am new to the world of agility (have never done it, but enjoyed watching it) so ANY ideas and tips are very helpful to me.

I am learning a lot from the AgilityNet website, too! I am also new to the world of deaf dogs, and am learning a lot from so many people as well. I think it's great that AgilityNet has featured deaf dogs. It helps people who don't know anything about deaf dogs learn how wonderful they can be (like any other dog). (25/10/00)

From Stacy Winkler
We have a deaf Aussie in one of our agility classes who is doing quite well. Although I do not teach that particular class I have substituted on occasion. I also have a friend starting a deaf dog and I know of a JRT that has been running in USDAA.

The one problem I have observed in the student is a tendency to baby-sit the dog to much which seems to slow it down. Since the dog had already been taught it's 'job' I suggested she just give clear signals and run harder trusting that the dog knew what to do. Lo and behold the dog ran very well. Unfortunately the last time I saw this dog and handler team they were back to over-handling and the dog was going slowly again.

Basically you teach the dog like any other, substituting hand gestures for verbal commands. You need to create a new language ala sign language for the: individual obstacles, a go on, sit, down, stay, good, great, come and so on. Of course depending on the drive and independence of the individual dog you can decide how intricate you can get with these things- multiple signals, working away... I'm sure it would be very interesting to see how far you can take it. Of course for the most part, you have to be able to run and stay in the dogs sight.

I believe the most important trick is to teach the dog confidence and drive on each individual obstacle and then work on drive in sequencing and build towards coursework. You don't want to end up jogging backwards through the whole course giving the dog a 'come on' gesture exhausting and not much fun. (30/05/01)

Rating from Dog Patch
It's the best page I've ever visited!!

From Pat Robards via Mary Kerssen...
This lecture was given by Chris Babiarz who is a social worker by profession and an ordinary dog trainer, one of her tools just happens to be the clicker. The video emphasises that the dogs "happen to be deaf" and it is about dog training, training dogs with signs, body language and lots of love.

Training The Deaf Dog" APTD video (1998)
Chris owns three deaf dogs. She was working at a shelter and walked into the euthanasia room and saw a four month old Dalmatian puppy with his leg shaved about to be given the needle. He was being put down as the owners couldn't house train him and didn't realise he was deaf.

You guessed it. Chris, being what she was, took this little puppy home and didn't tell her husband he was deaf for two days. She has other dogs who have hearing and this little guy watched them. They were his ears. Chris also learnt American sign language as she was running out of signals.

She wrote out the myths spread about deaf dogs,  mainly given out of the Dalmatian Club in the USA which had her brainwashed (her words).

Deaf Dog Myths

  • Deaf dogs are prone to behaviour problems

  • Deaf dogs have brain abnormalities which are the cause of problem behaviours.

  • Being constantly startled cause deaf dogs to become fearful and nervous leading to a poor quality life and possible fear based aggression.

  • Deaf dogs are more at risk of being hit by a car because they can't hear it coming.

  • Deaf dogs will become aggressive by the age of three

  • Deaf dogas are unpredictable in their behaviour .

  • Deaf dogs are difficult to train for some people if your'e not willing to think like a dog or spend the time.

  • John Q Pet Owner doesn't have the skills necessary to train or live with a deaf dog.

Remember that these are DEAF DOG MYTHS

Safety precautions

  1. A parachute cord that the dog can drag.

  2. Have two ID tags, the second tag saying something like 'I am deaf. Please hold me and call my owners immediately'.'

  3. Chris says slightly inappropriate body language (calming signals) can get them into serious trouble as they mostly depend on their sight. They stare and it causes them trouble and upsets other dogs and says modeling is critical.

  4. Teach them to lower their tails and give it a hand signal.

  5. Be Queen of Body Language and use environmental corrections.

  6. Also teach them that an open door becomes a command to wait whether your there or not. They can only go through when given a hand signal.

  7. She likes them to free run in a safe fenced area at first dragging a light line (parachute cord) for safety until fully trained. They go onto a Bill Bishop vibrating collar and uses it for a come signal once the dogs have graduated to off leash. She also uses a Gary Wilkes Hansel and Gretel recall, the one people poked fun at but then they could not see the potential in it obviously.

Bomb proofing

The next is interesting. I have already done it with Bo who is noise and movement sensitive but now I have a name to give my oddball training. The dogs are bomb proofed from being grabbed and startled to strange handling. Grab an ear/treat. Gentle skin grab/treat. Sometimes kick/treat. Grab on the butt form behind/treat, she wants the dog to turn around expecting a treat rather than bite in defense and she asked the audience why? Because you don't know what people are going to do and boy I can sure concur with that one so she counter - conditions to the "Sneek Attack".

Attention training
This is funny. I upset a few people with my food spitting. Chris always thought that people who use spit food were really gross too, but it is a great way to get a deaf dog to focus on the face so she food spits <smile>. She also teaches the dogs to check in and at strange places, treats them every 30 seconds no matter what they are doing. This becomes a habit and they check in regularly  and say 'where's my treat?'

Training for deaf and hearing dogs, too
Uses a Garretty flashlight instead of a clicker, flash/treat etc. in the beginning, the dogs are lured. Said clicker training was ideal the way Gary Wilkes does it as he lures a dog at first. All dogs - not only deaf dogs -  have so much visual acuity that she teaches hand signals first.

I have the book book Living With a Deaf Dog by Susan Cope Becker. Chris recommends it for normal hearing dogs too. There is so much good information in it and it is written out of love. She finished her workshop with the poignant words "Deaf Dogs Deserve To Live" and I am a wiser trainer for having watched it, I have a lump in my throat. Maybe the term shouldn't be a wiser trainer, it reinforced that I train for the real world and the problems that go along with it.

'Living with a Deaf Dog' by Susan Cope Becker, is available through Direct Book Services http://www.dogwise.com. I didn't like the mention of alpha rolling a deaf dog, I didn't see any purpose in that since they can't hear who is coming, a kiddy could put their hand on the shoulder and the dog may bite perhaps. By law in Oz anyway dog bites don't need to be reported so I know of many incidences that could have been prevented.

Deaf dog email list available through http://www.onelist.com go to dogs then deafdogs (one word) Deaf Dog Education Action Fund http://www.ddeaf.org

The Deaf Dog Webpage: http://www.deafdogs.org/

Also check out: http://www.dogsworldwide.com/deafdogtraining.htm#dogs

http://www.kiva.net/~lindsay/deafdogs

http://www.lsu.edu/guests/senate/public_html/deaf.htm

Instructions for building a vibrating collar: http://www.deafdogs.org/Vibra%20collar.html

A place to buy a vibrating collar: http://www.pcola.gulf.net/%7ebbishop/.

Instructions on constructing an inexpensive vibrating collar using the motor from a remote control car:
http://www.kwic.net/~cairo/deaf.html

Vibrating pager: http://www.pcola.gulf.net/~bbishop

Thank you so much for such a nice article on deaf dog agility... from Dayle Shimamura
I will be getting a deaf sheltie pup soon, and really want to steer him towards agility. He's a runner and a jumper already, at age seven weeks.

Your article reinforced the fact that deaf dogs are just dogs that cannot hear, so they can (and do) pretty much everything other dogs do. They don't know they have a 'handicap', so what's the problem? It's us humans that have to adjust how we communicate with them.


'All dogs can be trained without saying a word'
I have a deaf dog who was abused and neglected. He was tied outside to a box and starved. Rescued at age nine months, he has multiple physical deformities which have left him unable to do some of the agility equipment. Nonetheless, I have clicker trained him using a thumbs up signal for the click. Some people use a flashlight but I've seen too many deaf dogs who obsess on that or on a laser pointer so I don't use them. He is very attentive and eager to please and was absolutely thrilled to discover that we could 'communicate.' Because all dogs are visual and don't come with the understanding of English, I would say that all can be trained without saying a word. The words are for us, not for them.
Linda Michaels
michaels@kenyon.edu


I am owned by Woof, a 12 1/2 year old deaf/double merle Aussie.
We went to Camp Gone to the Dogs a year and a half ago so, at 11 years old, Woof learned basic agility and some sheepherding. She was in her glory. I wish people would stop underestimating what a deaf dog can do. If you have access to Susan Cope Becker's book on Living with a Deaf Dog, you can check out Woof's page.

Once again, nice site.

P.S. You should see how impatient some of us are sometimes. Our arms are flailing around and we make the most atrocious faces (Woof knows if she doesn't make eye contact, she doesn't have to do what I tell her)!
Marcy Rauch


Kudos to you and your web site for bringing this matter to the public's attention!
Thank you so much for the article on training deaf dogs in the sport of agility! I thought it was very well written and informative. I also am a deaf dog owner and am glad to see someone highlighting their accomplishments as opposed to condemning them all as too aggressive to control.
Myra Edwards


The beauty of silence
I was directed to your website by a member of the Deaf Dogs Digest mailing list. I am thrilled that you have chosen to highlight deaf dogs on your site. If you would like to share my dog's story, please do.

 I am proud to be owned by a deaf Jack Russell Terrier. Her name is Robin, and she is 2 1/2 years old. When she was almost 12 weeks old, her breeders, close friends of mine, wrote me to inquire if I would like to add another terrier to our household. We already had a male JRT with 'selective' hearing. Their carefully bred litter with generations of BAER normal terriers behind them had produced one puppy with no hearing.

I immediately knew she was my dog. I cried that day, and for two days more, while my husband 'thought about it.' He soon decided he wouldn't be able to live with me if he said no. We got Robin on August 1, 1997 when she was 14 weeks old. We had no idea what she looked like. I again broke down when I saw how absolutely beautiful she is, and although he would deny it, my husband misted up too. That five pounds of black and white terrier stole both our hearts immediately.

Not only is she lovely, she has a  wonderful temperament and is smart beyond belief. She loves all people and other dogs. She picks up on hand signals in seconds. Robin is the first to bark when someone enters our gate, and the first to settle in under the covers at night. She doesn't miss a thing in life.

She knows over 60 (I lost count) separate commands or signals. We use clicker training methods. I have never focused on her 'disability,' but instead have generally ignored it and treated her normally. She has never heard; she does not know that she is 'different,' so I have never seen a reason to treat her differently. I try not to let her down, as she has never let me down. Nothing fuels my fire more than to hear folks say, 'Oh poor baby,' or 'It must be so hard working with a handicapped dog.' There is nothing in Robin that merits pity or that indicates she is 'handicapped.' She is all terrier, and she flaunts it.

Teaching her to do agility... it was a breeze.
 One day, I was using a friend's equipment to work with Wishbone, my male. Robin was about nine months old. I hadn't considered starting her until she was over a year. She was in the yard as we worked. All of the sudden, I noticed the click of extra claws on the dog walk. She was right behind her big brother. I didn't stop, do or say anything. I just kept going. Since most good trainers teach agility handlers to use hand signals, that was all I needed to do with Robin. I kept training Wishbone and letting her follow.

That day, after Wishbone went in my friend's house for a rest, she did all the obstacles (except the weave pomes, which can not be taught in a day) with remarkable precision and speed. Simply by watching, she knew the signals.

The following Spring, we attended at terrier trial sanctioned by the JRT Club of America, the first of the year in Ohio. Robin was just over one year old. There, we entered her in a beginners on-lead class. Wayland ran her, since he has far more speed in his legs than I do. She ran the course with 100% accuracy, well under course time and far faster than any other competitor. He didn't need that leash. Needless to say, Robin's first agility ribbon is blue. I have a picture on my dresser of Wayland diving to catch her as she exits the chute, the course's final obstacle.

From that day on, we have worked with her almost daily in agility and obedience. She loves to work, and just continues to get better and better. We have continued to compete in JRTCA events over the past year, where she has done well. She has several qualifying scores, and is working to complete her JRTCA titles. In September, Robin and I entered her first USDAA event, and have since entered one more. She is doing very well, working away for gambles and ducking into tunnels in jumpers like a pro. (She missed the last event of our 1999 season due to a large cut on her paw pad. She is recovering very nicely.) We are considering attending NADAC events next season as well.

I am extremely proud of my little girl, her innate ability to find fun, her drive to succeed and work, and the example that she has set for other deaf dogs and their handlers. Winning is nice, qualifying is better, but the best thing in the world is to hear someone say, 'That was such a beautiful run,' when they don't realize that the beauty of it was the silence.

Heather & Wayland Reid
Buckeye Region JRTCA Russell Rescue
http://www.3vcc.com/reidjrt/

Body language tells all...
I own four deaf Australian shepherds and on rescue/foster deaf Australian Shepherd. My oldest, Luv-ee, is 2 1/2yrs old and has competed in one NADAC agility trial to date. My other three are in various levels of training and are not old enough to compete yet.

I have adopted all of them at different stages. All four were brought knowing that they were deaf. My two youngest, now 10 months and 5 months, were taken straight from their breeder. The older two, 18 months and 2 1/2yrs, were shelter rescues. Luv-ee was a year old when I adopted her. Sirius was 7 months when I adopted him. Q. Dee and Darius were both pups, 8 weeks and 12 weeks, when I got them. Darius was shipped to me in Florida from California, and Sirius was shipped to me from Arizona.

I love my deaf dogs dearly. I find the very easy to train, particularly in agility. If the basics are taught right, then the attention span is there already. I find they work well at agility because they are so visually oriented and body language tells a lot in the agility world.

I am currently working on getting some, if not all of them, frisbee oriented so we can compete in frisbee competitions as well. I intend to get Luv-ee, my oldest, into flyball since she is tennis ball intense.

I will be making a web site geared directly at them here shortly. I would love to send it to you and have you link to my site when I get it done. Your site is fabulous, and I am enthusiastic about seeing such a positive site about deaf dogs.
Charity

From M. Charmer
My Grandmother has a deaf Dalmatian that she competes with. She has taught her dog sign language! The dog knows about 20 signs and took to agility like she was born to it.

From Brenda Woods
We had a deaf dog in class earlier this year. His owner is an obedience trainer who does a lot of clicker training. Before the agility class he had already been trained with a small pen light as his clicker. Light flash = click This worked wonderful for him. (23/01/01)

Spot the Dalmatians

The Hearing Assessment Clinic and the Animal Health Trust have now tested the hearing of over 2500 Dalmatians in the UK using the brainstem auditory response test (BAER). Of these, 78.7% of dogs passed the screening test for deafness, 13.9% were totally deaf in one ear and 7.4% were totally deaf in both ears. In the UK study, females have a slightly higher incidence than males, but other studies in the USA have shown the opposite.

The BAER Test
BAER testing also called the auditory brain stem response test (ABR) is non-invasive, repeatable and objective. The technique is similar to the one used in babies where patient co-operation is not required. It uses scalp recording electrodes to detect small changes in electrical activity in response to an acoustic signal. The response comprises five or more waves of known morphology which occur within 10ms of the onset of the stimulus. Each ear is assessed separately.

Dogs can be tested from four weeks of age onwards. This allows the hearing status of puppies to be known prior to sale. Adults should also be checked prior to breeding. This is important as the condition is inherited, and only those dogs that pass the BAER test with both ears should be used for breeding. This has been statistically shown to reduce the number of deaf puppies born in the litter. The sale of deaf stock to unsuspecting buyers has also led to litigation in some cases, not to mention loss of breeders' reputation.

Thanks to Celia Cox for this article.

BAER Test Sites in the UK

Dr. Agnes Delauche
Centre for Small Animal Studies
Animal Health Trust, P.O.Box 5
Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 8JH
Tel. 01638-661 111, Fax. 01638-555 600

Geoff Skerritt
Church Farm Veterinary Clinic
Neston Road, South Wirral
Liverpool L64 2TL
Tel. 0151-327 1855

Dr. Susan N. Fitzmaurice
Neurology & Neurosurgery Referrals
3(4) Park Avenue
Bedford MK40 2JY
(Will test in Scotland, Ireland & Wales)
Tel. 07970-387027, Fax. 07971-047279

Mary Greening
British Dalmatian Club - BAER Coordinator
Tollcross, Church Lane, Moreton
Newport, Shropshire TF10 9DS
Tel. 01952-691518

 

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