We have been following Henry’s journey on Instagram since he was a young pup, not only did he look so handsome in his Wolf & I Co. gear, his handle "Silent Henry" stood out because it was intriguing but also obvious.
As September 24-30 is National Deaf Pet Awareness Week, we had to reach out to Henry’s family to get an insight into what it’s like to give a deaf dog the best life possible.
Generally speaking, dogs are born deaf due to a lack of pigment cells required for normal ear development. Deafness is typically linked with white or merle coats and seems to occur in Merle Collies, Cattle Dogs and Australian Shepherds along with Dalmatians and Stumpy Tails to name a few. Pups can be born deaf and just like humans, dogs can become deaf as they age.
Henry the Choc Merle Border Collie training as a puppy.
This is Henry’s story.
One good thing which came out of our covid lockdown years in Victoria, was the adoption of our Choc Merle Border Collie, we named Henry. He was a ten week old pup when we received an email from a breeder who needed a family to adopt him and provide him with the best chance of a full life as a deaf dog.
They discovered he was deaf one morning, when dishing out the morning breakfast meal to all the puppies and Henry stayed asleep. They then took him to the vets to confirm his lack of hearing and do a thorough check up and then contacted us. So... Henry joined our family.
Though daunting, and with plenty of unknown outcomes, we launched into training and the usual tasks with getting a pup. Henry really was no different to training any other dog. He cried at night, had to be toileted every two hours, loved play, loved food, loved cuddles. He slept soundly and was easily tired due to the extra sensory reliance on sight and smell. There was a lot of sleep time and there still is and he's nearly 2.5yrs old now.
Henry catching some zzz's on the couch.
We started obedience training as soon as we could and spent every Sunday at the local obedience club in rain, hail, or sunshine to train him. He was a quick learner, never distracted by other dogs barking and socialised well. He is now in Grade 4 level, the highest possible at our club. Something I am very proud of and I never thought in those early puppy days I would make it that far up the grades.
Training Henry at home involved consistent hand signals from both my husband and myself. We use the thumbs up as our "good boy" signal, I'm sure he thinks it’s his name! We have signals for no, sit, drop, up, toilet, wait, stop, dinner, bed, place, away and the big one and hardest….come. This is still a work in progress as he has to be looking at you to use it and that's hard if he's doing his own thing. Henry is always on a dog lead while we are out, mainly for his own safety while his recall is not 100%.
Henry on one of his many family holidays, who doesn't love the beach!
If he's being naughty inside you have to stop what you are doing and go to him and tap him on the head and wave your finger as a no. He was quick to learn what that command meant and a quick clap of our hands was what we use for very naughty behaviour....no nipping or chasing the cats, (his herd), that type of behaviour.
He comes to work with us every day and has become very popular in our little retail business. He regularly gets pats and has an uncanny ability to read which customers are likely to hand them out. He can wake up when one of his favourite people come into the shop and will front up to the doggy gate wagging his tail and waiting patiently.
Henry enjoying the extra sensory environment of all the flowers.
We have travelled a lot in our caravan since Henry was a pup and he loves being out on the road. He is very routine at home but is quite settled with no routine while tripping around in the van. His hearing is a benefit in this lifestyle, as disruptive noises never bother him and responsive barking is never on his radar, but.... he does bark and has a full range of loud noises and whimpers appropriate for all situations.
He isn't bothered by thunderstorms, wind, whipper snippers, mowers or dogs barking at fences on walks or in neighbouring caravans/houses. We've been as far as Queensland to the north and the Eyre Peninsula to the west. We've travelled weekends and weeks at a time. Up and down the Victorian and NSW coastlines. He's been further in his two years than most dogs travel in a lifetime.
Henry enjoying a bush walk with his family.
Overall having Henry in our lives has been a blessing. We don't look at him as being deaf, he's just another dog doing his best to please his family, looking to find the best smells and explore the great outdoors the way a dog knows best. We love him, he loves us and I'm pretty sure we have nailed the brief on giving him the best life.
5 Tell Tale Signs A Dog May Have Hearing Problems
- Does not seem to acknowledge everyday sounds
- Seem to be lazy, sleep a lot and are less active
- Barks a lot for no reason
- Can be suddenly startled
- Unpleasant odour or discharge coming from the ear
Raising a deaf dog does not stop the fun and adventure!
5 Things To Know About Raising A Deaf Dog
- Loud noises will not scare them
- Deaf dogs are not harder to train just different
- Being deaf doesn’t stop the love
- Communication is key and in the form of hand signals
- Be more aware of dangers to protect your dog
Obviously having a deaf dog does not stop the amount of fun and adventure you can have and it doesn’t stop how much love they have to give, even with their silent ears, they continue to be playful, cuddly, cheeky and happy!
Henry living his best life!