What can you do when your faithful companion starts to lose his hearing?
Q: Our old gundog is starting to become deaf, probably due to his age. Is there anything to help hearing loss in older dogs?
A: Certainly the most common form of deafness in dogs is age-related hearing loss (ARHL). Most dogs experience some degree of ARHL as they get older. Unfortunately, most people don’t recognise the problem until their dog is almost completely deaf and mistakenly interpret earlier, partial hearing loss as some form of misbehaving.
Ask your vet to check the dog’s deafness is due to ARHL and not some other ear disease. Treating an ear canal problem may well restore an acceptable level of hearing.
Train your gundog to respond to hand signals. Many working gundogs will already be trained to some hand signals and it is not necessarily difficult to extend the range of commands. Dogs naturally communicate via body language so they can quickly learn the meaning of hand gestures. Ideally, start early and train with hand signals as well as verbal commands.
In addition to hand signals, find other ways to get your dog’s attention. Create vibrations by clapping your hands or stamping your foot on the floor. You can also use a flashlight to gain your dog’s attention.
Avoid startling a deaf dog. Approach and/or touch the dog while you are within his field of vision. If you need to wake him up when he’s asleep, touch him gently in the same place — the shoulder area is ideal. You can also put your hand in front of his nose as your smell may rouse him.
Scared gundog: Loud noises make for a scared gundog.
At what stage of a Labrador gundog's training do you introduce hand signals?
Finally, think more about your dog’s security. Fencing in the garden becomes essential. Learn to use the lead more and make sure he is restrained whenever, for instance, he is in the vicinity of moving vehicles, joggers, bikers, skateboarders and other potential hazards.