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Why You Need to Stop Speaking, Start Signing to Your Tripawd

Does your dog or cat come running when they hear food hit their bowl? If so, that’s probably not too remarkable; after all, when our pets are in their prime we take their faculties for granted, even when they’re missing a leg!

German Shepherd, Wyatt, three-legged, tripawd
Wyatt romps in the desert.

But what happens if one day you put that food bowl down and nothing happens? Chances are, that day will arrive for many of us who are lucky enough to care for a senior dog or cat.

Hearing loss is often part of a pet’s aging process; are you ready?

Tripawd, German Shepherd, three-legged, dog
Wyatt snoozes on the couch.

Since Tripawds founder Jerry only lived to age 10, we never had the chance to experience old age with him, our first dog. We lived in blissful ignorance about how deaf animals cope, until this year’s Blog Paws conference, when we were lucky enough to chat with Bernard of the website Dog and His Boy.

Dog and His Boy, Tripawds, Blog Paws
Bernard looking smashing at Blog Paws!

Bernard’s mission is to educate pet parents about life with deaf dogs. He writes in his blog:

My mission is deaf dogs. I am writing and working for them, to raise awareness about their existence, needs and capabilities, to be an advocate and to help them live rich, full, happy lives. — Dog and His Boy

We asked Bernard about communicating with deaf dogs, which he says isn’t all that difficult – most people just use modified American Sign Language (ASL) or what the deaf dog community refers to as “Deaf Dogs Sign Language or DDSL.”

deaf dogs, Bernard Lima-Chavez

What is difficult about using sign language with pets, is overcoming our laziness as human beings. Those of us with the gift of hearing habitually rely on the spoken word to convey everything, even to our pets, who miraculously often manage to usually figure out what we’re saying to them.

Tripawd, German Shepherd, three-legged
Jim uses hand signals with Wyatt.

Despite the many awesome dog trainers who encourage using hand signals with our dogs so we can communicate from a distance, we usually revert back to verbal commands and cues as soon as our dog is within a few feet of us.

Meeting Bernard was a real eye opener for us, and we hope that his message resonates with you too. We all need to stop speaking, and start signing to help make our senior pets lives as great as possible.

American Sign Language Cat

How to Start Deaf Dog and Cat Training, Now

Make a commitment to learn some basic deaf dogs sign language hand signals. For cats, you can start by learning clicker training tips with a laser light instead of a clicker. Here are some places to get started:

Deaf Dog Training Resources

Dog and His Boy: Deaf Dogs and Beyond
Deaf Dogs Rock Training Tips Blog
Quick and Dirty Tips: Living with a Deaf Dog
WebMD: Training and Caring for a Deaf Dog

Deaf Cat Training Tips

VCA Animal Hospitals: Living with a Deaf Cat
Cat Channel: How Do We Train Our Deaf Cat?
Purina Pet Care: Deaf Cats

Have you ever lived with a deaf dog or cat? We would love to hear your experience! Share in the comments below. Thanks!

6 thoughts on “Why You Need to Stop Speaking, Start Signing to Your Tripawd”

  1. Oh this makes total sense! That’s why my girls will respond to my “stay” command so much better if I include my hand in the “stop” position. I’m excited to read more and learn so I can teach my girls. I’m thinking that signing would bring a whole level of connecting on their level. Maybe instead of playing within ear-shot, they’ll play within line-of-sight. Seems to me that would be so much safer.
    Hmmm . . . the wheels are turning. Thanks!

  2. First I have to say that the photo of Wyatt running in the desert is a fabulous action shot!

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Bernard is providing a fabulous service as deaf dogs and cats can live full, healthy lives.

    There are things I can learn from this blog. Thank you!

    Kerren and Trikitty Mona

  3. What a wonderful man Bernard is to make such a compassionate commitment Bernard has made to our fur friends.
    Thanks for bringing this wonderful man to our attention and the mission he is on to help dogs and cats who can no longer hear…or never could.

    And yes, her looks very dapper in his “pawty” attire…as do our two leaders!!

    I have had the privilege of being with dogs into their senior years as they lose their hearing. Not that this is “signing”by any stretchof the imagination, but the one thing I ALWAYS made sure was that they would know when I was “saying” “GOOD GIRL!” or “GOOD BOY!” I would always clap my hands and tell them what good boy/ girl they were…and often do it crouching by their side. That way,as theeir hearing faded, if they saw my hands in a “clapping position” and I crouched down to nuzzle them..they KNEW they were being “praised”…and usually for just “being”!

    A d it was a treat to watch how laser focused Wyatt was on Jim at the tripawd lawty. Jim used his energy and his hand signals in a way that Wyatt responded so willingly…and with such trust.

    What Bernard is doing is absolutely fascinating and I look forward to supporting his efforts.

    With appreciation,

    Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle too!


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