QUESTION: I just recently got a 4-month-old, Border Collie pup. I think he is deaf or at least partially deaf. He sure acts it and is not very good at being trained. How do I find out myself, if he is? Also, I always have just used voice commands to train a dog. I don’t think the dog can learn hand signals or something else if he is deaf?

ANSWER: An easy, at home method to check his hearing is wait until he is sound asleep. Then create an unusual noise that is fairly loud but not overly sharp. Do not walk around while doing this, as deaf animals feel the vibration of you moving through the floor and may wake up, making you think they heard the noise.

Watch his ears closely. The muscles of the ear or maybe both that hears the noise will jerk at the base of the ear where it attaches to the skull, the split second before he wakes up. If he does not hear this noise, create a louder one and watch. The final is a silent dog whistle, which a dog can hear but we cannot. This will give you a rough estimate of which ear or both that he can hear noise with and what level of noise.

The dog is often deaf in the ear that is pure white or mostly white on a mixed color dog. White Boxers are often deaf and so are pure white cats. Border Collies or even Dalmatians (no black on or near the ear) that have excessive white on their heads may be deaf in one or both ears.

A 4-month-old pup is not ready mentally yet for a lot of training. Their attention span is to short. 7 to 8 months is a far better age to begin stricter training. Before, he should learn only the basics and only for very short stretches of time. Sit, Stay, Heel, Down (for a very short time), but to Come when called at all times.

Since many dogs that are trained professionally work off of hand signals anyway, that is not a problem with him either. If he can hear the silent dog whistle, incorporate the whistle into your training. Again many dogs, including herding dogs work off of hand signals and/or short to long, plus number of whistle sounds. I have known a couple and heard of several more "Hearing Impaired" dogs that do very well with hand signals only.

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