“Connecting Deaf Dogs with Caring People”
P.O. Box 2345
Woodland, CA 95776
AKC BOD member
D2Care (Deaf Dog Connections, Advocacy, Resources & Education Position Statement: We support the inclusion of deaf dogs into AKC-sponsored Companion Events
We, the Board of Directors of D2Care (www.d2care.org ) have been watching with great interest the discussion concerning deaf dogs being admitted into AKC-sponsored events. We would like to take this opportunity to share our thoughts on this very important topic.
First, by way of introduction, we are the foremost authority on deaf dogs and their capabilities, working very closely with rescues, veterinarians, shelters, breeders, and adoptive parents to further the education of the general public about deaf dogs. We are dedicated to promoting the health, welfare, and quality of life for deaf dogs through outreach, advocacy, education, and support. Collectively, we represent many breeds of dogs that are known to have an increased risk of deafness, such as English Pointers, American Pitbull Terriers, Border Collies, Dalmatians, Australian Shepherds, Bull Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, Boxers, Great Danes, and Australian Cattle Dogs.
When approached by people who find themselves with a dog that is deaf, one of the very first lessons we provide is that a deaf dog is a dog first, a breed second, a personality third, and deaf last. Essentially, we are educating people that the deafness does not define the dog; rather, the dog is defined by his breed and personality. For example, Dalmatians are not a good fit for every family because of their high energy level and need for exercise. When queried, we will respond “You have a young dog who is a Dalmatian, with all the characteristics attributed to the breed. Your dog has his/her own personality and happens to have ears that function as hood ornaments.”
Currently, the AKC is the only professional canine organization that does not allow deaf dogs into flyball, agility, rally, obedience, and tracking. Other organizations such as the UKC, NADAC, APDT, and K9CPE permit deaf dogs to enter their events, and many deaf dogs have received awards and certificates under their auspices. Most of these venues do not even have a place on the entry form to identify that a dog is deaf or hearing.
We understand that a few arguments have been presented opposing the idea of deaf dogs entering AKC-sponsored events. These include but are not limited to:
“Deaf dogs are more likely to startle and perhaps startle bite.”
In fact, deaf dogs are no more likely to startle than any other dog, hearing or otherwise. Startle is a natural reflex. However, deaf dogs are less likely to startle in events with large crowds due to the inability to hear sudden crowd noises. IF a deaf or hearing dog does startle, a bite is not a guaranteed outcome. There have not been any rigorous, randomized, controlled trials (the highest level of evidence accepted in scientific research), indicating that deaf dogs are more likely to startle and bite. Suggestions have been made that this may be a possibility, however, for every anecdotal statement of a deaf dog that startles and bites, we can find an equal number of anecdotal statements of hearing dogs that startle and bite, or a greater number of stories of deaf dogs that don’t startle and bite. Due to the pervasive belief (emphasized by the Dalmatian Club of America (DCA)) that deaf dogs are capable of a startle and bite, we do teach new owners of deaf dogs to socialize their dog to touch so the dog will wake up or react calmly and uneventfully, regardless of the situation.
“Difficulty in training”
Deaf dogs are not any more difficult to train for Obedience, Agility, Flyball, or as Search and Rescue dogs since these are activities that rely on sight and smell as much as, if not more than, hearing. Deaf dogs do not require special modifications or accommodations to participate in these events. Most dogs are generally taught hand signals along with speech. In fact, dogs are very visual animals. They rely more on body language than oral language. It is the human that is difficult to train to hand signs, since hearing humans are so attuned to oral language, and not as much to body language. Deaf dogs are much more attuned to “watching” their person and for that reason they often excel in obedience classes.
The AKC is an organization that prides itself on being the authority for the advancement of the welfare of all dogs. Our organization is much smaller, but we pride ourselves in advancing the welfare of dogs that are deaf. We feel that the misperceptions about deaf dogs are prevalent among veterinarians, breed clubs, rescues, shelters, and individuals. Regardless of how these misperceptions originated, we are determined to educate the public to the strengths of deaf dogs and educate on the reality of these misperceptions. As a group, we have found no difference in training or liability with deaf dogs vs. hearing. As a group, we have deaf and hearing dogs, many of whom are simply family pets and others that have achieved many awards and certificates in sports and companion events such as those sponsored by the AKC. We feel strongly that the AKC has an opportunity to step forward and help us further improve the welfare of deaf dogs by allowing them into AKC-sponsored companion events. Such entry can only emphasize what all of us already know: Deaf dogs are no different or more difficult or dangerous to work with than hearing dogs.