SEPTEMBER 18, 2014 – 1:00 PM
By MICHELE C. HOLLOW @MicheleCHollow
A friend of mine has a dog that is blind. But you wouldn’t know it by looking or interacting with him—he comes when he is called, he greets her at the door when she comes home, and he socializes with other dogs at the dog park.
While I have met dogs that are blind and deaf, and have noticed no difference between them and other dogs, I still thought that a blind or deaf dog would act differently from a dog with good vision and hearing.
Well, new research finds that dogs that are blind or deaf are very similar to dogs with normal hearing and vision. The results of this study by Valeri Farmer-Dougan of Illinois State University showed many similarities between dogs with a hearing or vision impairment and those without. The study found:
Deaf, blind, and deaf/blind dogs are no more prone to aggression or other severe behavioral issues than any other dog; rather it is breed and rearing/living environment that are correlated with aggression and/or other severe behavior issues.
Deaf, blind, and deaf/blind dogs bond easily with their owners, and owners are as satisfied with these dogs as owners of typical same-breed dogs.
Deaf, blind, and deaf/blind dogs are easily trainable, or at minimum, train as easily as same-breed hearing/seeing cohorts.
The good news is that the results of the study show that dogs with vision and hearing impairments can make good pets. In fact, the dogs with normal vision and hearing were rated as more aggressive and more excitable than those with vision and hearing impairments.
According to researchers of this study, owners of dogs with hearing or vision problems should make sure their dog gets enough sensory input. The researchers suggest enrichment with toys, including vibrating toys and chew toys, as well as training sessions to engage the dog’s brain. Many of these dogs could also attend agility or obedience classes.
Researchers surveyed pet parents of 461 dogs. The hearing-impaired and vision-impaired dogs were considered as one group since there were no differences between them. Ninety-eight dogs were deaf or had a hearing impairment, 32 dogs were blind or partially-sighted, and 53 dogs were both deaf and blind. The remainder was a comparison group of dogs without such impairments.
The authors of the study concluded that “Through cooperative partnerships between veterinarians, behaviorists, and dog owners, blind and deaf dogs can be excellent and well-loved companion dogs.”
Michele C. Hollow writes about pets, wildlife, interiors, and travel for Parade and other publications. She writes the animal advocacy blog, Pet News and Views and is the author of The Everything Guide to Working with Animals. Connect with her on Twitter.