We are always humbled not only by the time that our volunteers give, but also by their many talents. Antoinette Lachina is one of our dog companion volunteers who has owned three deaf dogs. Her experience and expertise made her a perfect fit to work with Nova (pictured), a 2 year old deaf pit bull, who came into the shelter in late June, and then Namiste, a 3 year old pit bull/boxer, who came into the shelter in September. Antoinette immediately began to work with both of these dogs to help them learn some basic commands and gain confidence for her their new families. Here’s what she shared about her experience working with deaf dogs at the shelter and her own deaf dogs.
What are some of the cues you use to teach dogs when they’re deaf?
The first thing to establish with them is eye contact. They will be reliant on your motions and hand gestures for the rest of their lives, so it is imperative to gain that eye contact trust first. Then, we move onto hand commands. I also always get to their level to reduce any feelings of intimidation and to build trust.
What is your background with teaching deaf dogs?
I started my journey 13 years ago with my own deaf puppy, Opal. I did not know she was deaf until after the adoption, and I remember being extremely nervous not knowing what to do with her. After a day, I realized that with movement and patience she was just like my other pups and fit into the pack perfectly! I found commands that worked for us and then developed them slowly to suit her needs. I remember having that fear of not knowing what to do, and now, I want to help erase that stigma of the deaf world for others and let them know that owning a deaf dog just takes some extra patience and time.
Have you ever volunteered and worked with another deaf dog anywhere else?
Throughout the years I have assisted on multiple occasions with deaf dogs and assisting their families with comfortability in training.
Tell us about your own dogs at home:
Kinley is our 5 year old, and she is full of life, spunk and fun. Kali is our 2 year old and she is the happiest and most curious pup in town. They are both deaf and they both needed to be worked with in order to strengthen and develop their bond but it was a fantastic experience for us as a family.
What would you tell people about owning a deaf dog? What are some of the rewards? What are some of the challenges? What should they not be frightened of?
Having a dog is a wonderful feeling and experience. Having a deaf dog is a very different level of understanding, patience, trust and bonding. Dogs are extremely intelligent and in tune to what humans feel. They are inquisitive and watch every single thing we do. Deaf dogs rely on you for direction, safety, comfort and commands. They also can smell you coming about a mile from home—trust me! They crave to understand you, and more than likely will snuggle you to pieces. Deaf dogs sleep better when they are touching or laying close to the ones they love. Since they cannot hear you they do not want to lose sight of where you are going–do not be surprised when you move from room to room your deaf pup will too! The added bonus is they can go to concerts, lightning storms do not bother them, nor do loud homes with constant noise. Once they find their internal comfort and peace in their new surroundings the blossoming begins. It starts with trust and ends with love.