Life With a Deaf Dog: Meet Primrose
Prim is a three year old Australian Cattle Dog(Red-Heeler)/Basset Hound mix who lives with her sister Stella and Sadie, loves to play ball, and is dedicated to her owner, Nicholas. Overall, she lives a pretty simple life filled with love and fun. But, you may be wondering, what makes Prim special? Primrose has been deaf since birth.
Deafness can be either partial or a complete loss of hearing. The loss can vary from temporary to permanent depending on the cause. While wax-build up and debris in the ear-canal is responsible for temporary deafness, permanent deafness can be caused by a number of factors such as untreated ear infections, injuries, tumors, birth defects, and old age. In Prim’s case, she was born deaf. Nicholas believes that this birth defect is due to the Australian Cattle breed. Research suggests that dogs of this breed are prone to deafness, especially if their coats are white or merle (a type of pattern).
I met Nicholas about three months ago and he was quick to inform me that he had a dog that was deaf. I had never encountered a deaf dog before, so I was curious to see what she would be like. After meeting her, I decided that deafness in dogs was a topic that should be discussed, with her as the perfect example.
Q: How did Prim come into your life?
Nicholas: “I moved to Huntsville, TX and I knew I wanted a dog. I went to Walmart and they happened to be giving away free puppies in the parking lot. She was the last dog left. I just walked up and they gave her to me. I remember going into the store after that and spending all my money on dog food and a kennel.”
Q: When did you realize she was deaf?
Nicholas: “It was 6 months until I realized she couldn’t hear. I didn’t confirm it, though, until I took her to the vet. She wouldn’t listen to commands and she couldn’t seem to learn her name. However, I was able to train her to sit with hand commands before I knew she was deaf. I would walk around the house and yell and she wouldn’t acknowledge it. That’s when I knew.”
Nicholas: “I wouldn’t say it’s affected me. She’s way more attached than dogs normally are—she has to be in the room with me and I have to be in her line of sight. I talk to her all the time, even if she can’t hear me. But other than that, it really hasn’t affected me.”
Q: What makes her different because of her deafness?
Nicholas: “She gets scared easily because she can’t tell my emotion from my voice. I have to use body language, like jumping in circles to let her know it’s okay or to get her excited. She’s not really good with other dogs because she can’t hear their growls or barks—it makes her scared. With humans and other dogs, she looks for my approval before accepting their company. Like, with my brother’s dog, she knows him, so she usually plays with him, except if I’m not there she won’t play.”
Q: Has her deafness ever been a problem?
Nicholas: “It has. When she gets loose, I can’t call her to get her attention, I have to wait for her to turn around and look at me which takes a while. She just sprints off and she’s very fast. One time I chased her barefoot for a quarter mile down the road in the dark. She knew I was upset with her because she had ran out of the house. At one point, I sat down and started to cry because I thought I wasn’t going to catch her. It was at that point that she turned around and came back. That was a rough night.”
Q: Do you have any advice for other owners who may have a deaf dog?
Nicholas: “Be patient. Let them be attached. Let them be in the room with you. Don’t be mad for long. They pick up on body language very easily—if you’re mad about something else, they may assume it’s their fault. You have to show them love.”
Q: What have you learned from your three years (and counting!) with Primrose?
Nicholas: “How connected a dog and a human can be. She always knows how to make me feel better. And I can do the same with her. Even if she can’t hear, she’s just like a normal dog—still barks, still loves to play. She’s probably a better cuddler because she can’t hear! I wouldn’t change anything about her.”
Nicholas: “Not The Hunger Games. I was searching for names, saw that it was the name of a flower, and I liked it. But I guess at this point, it doesn’t matter what her name is because she can’t hear it.”
If you think your dog is deaf, or has ear problems in general, make sure to take them to the vet and get them checked out. Every dog is different and Prim is one out of millions of pups that cannot hear. Her story is unique, just like countless others. If you would like more information, take the time to talk to your vet or research deafness in dogs online or at your local library. Information never hurts!