Can a Deaf Dog Bark? Time to Bust Some Myths

Although deaf dogs can bark, they may not bark as often as hearing dogs. Many dogs bark when they hear a noise. Since deaf dogs can’t hear, they won’t bark at noise. However, since barking is an innate behavior in dogs, deaf dogs will still bark even if they can’t hear it. 

As with people, dogs can be deaf for a number of reasons. A dog’s hearing can be affected by birth defects, old age, and even congenital defects. 

Deafness and muteness are not correlated in dogs. Just because a dog is deaf doesn’t mean it can’t bark. In fact, it is very rare for a dog to be unable to bark. 

So, the simple answer is: yes, a deaf dog can bark. The longer answer, including the likelihood of your dog barking and what to do to get your deaf dog to stop or start barking, is much more interesting. 

The Cause of Deafness Will Affect Barking Behavior

The cause of deafness has the potential to heavily influence a dog’s barking behavior. Dogs with a congenital defect – meaning a genetic anomaly – are likely to display different behaviors than a dog who went deaf later in life. 

It is important to take the cause of your dog’s deafness into consideration. Identifying the reason for a dog’s deafness will help you understand if there is cause for concern and the best ways to train your dog to bark – or not bark – when you want him to. 

Dogs With a Congenital Defect

If you’re the dog mom or dad to a Dalmatian, English setter, Australian shepherd, or Jack Russell terrier, you’re in the group of people to most likely worry about congenital deafness in dogs. 

These breeds are the most likely to have underlying genetic conditions that cause them to be born deaf or develop deafness while they’re still young. 

What you need to know is that barking is an innate behavior for dogs. This means that even though your dog can’t (and maybe never could) hear, he can still bark. As with other dogs, you can change your pup’s barking behavior through reinforcement techniques. 

You just need to be on the lookout for opportunities to work with your dog on barking to either increase or decrease the behavior.

Dogs Who Went Deaf From Old Age or Illness

The behavior of dogs who lost their hearing later in life is a little more challenging to predict than those born deaf. Some will have significant behavioral changes, while others won’t change their barking behaviors at all. 

No Change

If your dog loses his hearing later in life, he will no longer be affected by auditory stimuli that may have triggered barking in the past. 

But dogs are good at relying on multiple senses; the sights and smells he previously associated with bark-triggering sounds will still be there. If your pup had a hate-hate relationship with the vacuum cleaner before he went deaf, he might still hold that grudge even though the annoying sound is gone. 

Barking Virtually Stops

If your dog suddenly stops barking, you probably want to book a trip to the vet. Dogs who lost their hearing from illness or old age could have other health conditions – like tumors or tears on their vocal cords – that are causing them enough discomfort that they stop barking. 

This isn’t all bad news, though. For some dogs in this category, the fact that they stop barking is a good thing. 

If they don’t have a medical reason that they stopped barking after losing their hearing, it means that they are less excited or agitated by something that made them bark in the past.

Barking Gets Out of Control

This type of behavior is cause for concern and remedial action. Barking that becomes incessant after hearing loss typically means one of two things: either your dog is unwell or experiencing distress. 

Incessant barking without the presentation of a stimulus that caused barking in the past is cause for concern. If this happens, a trip to the vet is definitely in order to rule out an underlying health condition. 

While some dogs seem to appreciate the peace and quiet after losing their hearing, some find it distressing. Frantic barking may just be them shouting to the world that they are upset and scared. If this is the case, you need to work on reassuring your pup that he is still safe. You should also use positive reinforcement training techniques to curb nuisance barking. 

What to Do if You Have a Deaf Dog That Barks

If you have a deaf dog who barks and you’ve already ruled out a medical condition, it’s time to break out your bag of training tricks and tools. 

If They Bark at Appropriate Times

If your dog barks at appropriate times, it’s definitely time for positive reinforcement. When your dog barks to let you know that someone is in your house or that he needs to go out, let him know he did a good job by establishing a hand signal and rewarding him with a treat. The great upside to this is that it segues nicely with having your pooch bark on command. 

If They Bark at Inappropriate Times

If your dog barks at inappropriate times, you’re going to need to get his attention to make him stop. You can use a visual signal or stimulation (like a vibrating collar) to get his attention. Once you have his attention and he stops barking, reward your dog for stopping the behavior. 

Once you practice this technique for a while, your dog will be less likely to bark and more likely to look to you for a snack or toy. 

What if Your Deaf Dog Doesn’t Bark When You Want it to?

This one is a little trickier: your dog will need to bark on his own, at least occasionally, for you to mark and reinforce the behavior. 

Since barking is a natural behavior for dogs, vigilance is going to have to be your watchword. Be prepared to mark or signal the barking behavior and then reward it. 

Overall, training a deaf dog to bark isn’t much different from training a hearing dog to bark. The biggest disadvantage is that you will need to have the dog’s attention to mark and signal the behavior rather than being able to vocalize something to mark the behavior. 

Instead of simply saying “speak” when a deaf dog barks, you will need to mark the behavior through a visual or touch-based method. 

Flashing pen lights and unique vibrations from a collar are good signaling methods and should be used as soon as the barking starts. This timing is critical to create an association between the bark and the reward that follows. 

Deaf Dogs Are Just as Capable as Hearing Dogs

As with hearing dogs, deaf dogs most definitely can bark. Whether your deaf pup is a barker or quiet as a mouse, he can be trained to have the barking behavior you’re looking for. After considering the cause of your pup’s deafness, you should consider the best way to train him. 

A deaf dog can be trained to bark or not bark in essentially the same way as his hearing counterparts. You will just need to do your part: ensure that you have your dog’s attention, signal both good and bad behaviors, and reward the outcome you’re looking for. A deaf dog is just as capable of learning what you’re looking for and pleasing you as his hearing counterparts. 

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