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Identifying Deafness In Shelter Dogs

It’s important to note that canine deafness, though most prevalent in dogs with white pigmentation, cuts across color, size, gender and breed, including mixed breeds. According to the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, “dogs of any breed can have congenital deafness, from a variety of causes, both hereditary and acquired.” (


Our experience has taught us the importance of identifying deafness as early as possible. While you may not have the luxury of working with young puppies, you can make it a practice to be on the lookout for clues in your adult dogs.


The following red flags should alert you that a dog in your care might be deaf or hearing impaired:

  • He does not startle at loud noises.

  • He ignores you when you call him.

  • He sleeps so soundly that there is no response when you call his name.

  • He doesn’t appear to react to the routine sounds of dogs barking, kennel cleaning, trucks coming and going, etc.

  • When you approach, he responds with a head tilt as if wondering what the heck you want.

  • He doesn’t respond to squeals of pain if he mouths a human or another dog too enthusiastically.

  • He just doesn’t listen!


Fortunately, you can test a shelter dog for deafness in just 5 minutes:

  • Take the dog into a quiet room.

  • Have someone feed the dog treats while you approach from the rear and clap your hands, blow a whistle, bang pans together or jiggle keys. Stay back at least three feet so the dog doesn’t pick up on the vibrations from your movement or see you in his peripheral vision.

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