Why is my deaf dog barking?

Fun fact : did you know that there’s a dog breed that actually can’t bark? The Basenji – also believed to be the oldest breed in the world – can’t actually bark, although they can make an interesting yodeling sound to communicate.

Apart from Basenjis, most dogs tend to communicate through barking – even if we humans sometimes tend to find it frustrating when they do. (Thanks Fido for yelling at us to let us know you’ve seen the mailman, the garbage truck, the UPS guy and next door’s cat!)

So here’s an interesting question: do deaf dogs bark?

The answer is ‘yes’ and in fact they may actually bark more than other dogs because they have a whole lot of challenges that a dog with perfect hearing just doesn’t have to worry about.

Here’s a few reasons why your deaf dog may bark … a lot.

Anxiety and frustration
Have you ever had a blocked ear due to a flight or a cold? It’s frustrating as anything, right? But at least we’re usually able to fix the problem pretty easily. Imagine how frustrating it is for your dog to have that sensation of not being able to hear properly and also not be able to make it go away. Your dog may be barking excessively because he or she is feeling anxious and is in need of extra reassurance and comforting – especially if they are an older dog gone deaf suddenly.

Visual overstimulation
Without being able to hear what’s going on, a deaf dog may be unable to relax and be more focused on seeing what’s going on around them. Rather than jumping at the slightest sound, they’ll perk up at the slightest movement – and bark at the littlest thing to show that they’re alert. If you find your deaf dog is barking at nothing all the time, try creating a visually ‘quiet’ space for them (for example, a room where they can’t see outside the house) to give them a place they can go to and get some peace to relax.

Your deaf dog brings you a ball, drops it at your feet and barks. You toss the ball, the dog chases it and is happy. Rinse and repeat a few times and suddenly we’ve created a habit for the dog to bark at you when it wants something. Breaking the habit can be as easy as waiting until the dog stops barking to toss the ball. It’ll take some patience, but eventually they’ll learn not to bark in order to get what they want.

Because it’s fun
When little kids are excited they’ll chatter non-stop regardless of whether you’re listening to them or not. Dogs can be the same – they get excited about something and they want you to know about it.

deaf dog care - why is my deaf dog barking
“Oooh, the postman is here – better tell my people.”

“Hey, human! There’s a trash panda on the porch!”

“Who’s a dog gotta bark at around here to get a little outside time?”

You’ve probably experienced your dog barking for at least one of those reasons – and they’re not going to go away just because your dog’s hearing has.

Training a deaf dog not to bark
Obviously, yelling at a deaf dog to get them to quit barking isn’t going to work. Training a deaf dog not to bark is not necessarily difficult, but it will require a collar, a leash, some treats and some patience and perseverance.

Pop the collar and leash on your dog and then put them in a situation where you know they’re going to bark (maybe sit by the front window and have someone walk past for example). When the dog barks, tug gently on the leash or collar until they stop and use a hand signal that you want them to associate with ‘quit barking!’. Offer praise and a treat once they’ve calmed down. Just like training a dog with hearing, you’ll need to repeat the process until they get the hang of what you want them to do.

Next, remove tugging on the leash from the equation and just use the hand signal. Again, you’ll need to do this several times for them to understand what you want, but they’ve already associated the hand signal with stopping barking and getting a treat, so it shouldn’t take too long.

Finally, stop giving them a treat every time they stop barking – you don’t want them to start barking just to get a treat if they stop! Don’t forget to show them how happy you are with them being obedient. Dogs are very visual and they love making their humans happy – and positive reinforcement is a great way to train a dog to do what you want them to quickly.

Last of all, remember: just because your dog lives in a quiet world, doesn’t mean they’re going to be quiet all the time. And nor should they have to be! Deaf dogs will still bark to communicate and making some simple changes will help to ensure that they know they’re being heard and help prevent them from barking all the time for no reason.