What a treat!
A deaf 7-month-old Spanish Water Dog named Rafa learned how to communicate with sign language and perform tricks to sign language commands in just eight weeks.
Owner Jo Lee Page said she first learned her dog was deaf in June 2022 when he failed to react to certain noises.
“Within a day of having him he wasn’t responding to any noise and he wouldn’t wake up when we came in,” said Page. “He didn’t respond to loud drilling noise or the smoke alarm going off.”
Instead, the pooch used his visual senses to pick up cues.
“Rafa would turn his head when other puppies heard noises and would follow all of them,” said Page. “He was always good at following cues from other puppies.”
According to Page, her family wanted to look at other dogs, but Page said that when she googled sign language for dogs “it opened up a whole new world.”
“The training is all done with hand signals. Thumbs up are used for praise,” explained Page. “You can’t use hands in a negative way, so showing something to be unacceptable is difficult.”
Page says that despite being a “normal puppy” Rafa is less motivated by treats than by toys.
“He is a typical puppy but with no awareness,” explained Page.
In all, the pooch has learned nine commands such as: “sit”, “stand”, “watch me,” “spin,” “give paw,” “lie down,” “come,” “stay” and “safe” – where he will walk under Page’s legs, turn around and stay there.
Page says the experience, “has been a big education for the whole family.”
“This is only the beginning of his journey and we just take it a day at a time,” she said. “Most people wouldn’t have bothered.”
“Our initial thoughts were that it would be hard or impossible to train a dog who can’t hear,” she continued.
“We thought it would definitely be impossible to drop his lead on a walk. Education and training have proven that all of our fears were false.”
According to Page, the pup makes sure that everyone is within his line of sight before continuing on the walk.
“We have been amazed with how often he watches us, checks in with us and trots along next to or behind us,” exclaimed Page.
“If we are walking as a family he looks to make sure we are all present and in his line of sight, especially when road walking, and often won’t move until the children are in front of him so he can keep an eye on them.”