We got an email from the owner of a 14 year old Beagle who wrote, “Buddy is 14 years old now and he is deaf. He sleeps a lot and I have to wake to tell him it’s time to go for a walk or eat. He sleeps soundly and I have to gently shake him to wake him up. He gets very startled and I don’t like scaring him. When he’s awake, he also can’t hear me and doesn’t even know I’m calling him. What should I do?”
Here’s what we said:
Older dogs with deafness or blindness can live happy lives when we are willing to make some small adjustments to help them.
When Buddy is awake, if he can’t hear you calling him, try using a flashlight or laser pointer to get his attention. With a few short training sessions where you pair the light with a food treat, Buddy dog will soon learn to look at or come to you when he sees the spot of light.
With the problem of Buddy startling when you shake him to wake him up, here are some things you can try:
1. When you touch Buddy, don’t apply a lot of pressure as though you are going to shake him out of a sleep. Instead, very lightly touch the tips of his hair or gently blow on his face or front paw. The idea here is to present a sensation that is so light he’s initially not sure if he felt something. You’ll see him move a little bit but not startle.
2. Repeat the touch and he’ll wake up.
3. Be consistent and touch Buddy in the same place on his body (e.g., shoulder, front leg) each time you wake him. He’ll soon learn when he feels your touch that it is you calling him to go outside.
4. Finally, be aware that older dogs spend a lot of time sleeping. You may want to adjust the outside/eating schedule. You might have to wake him for trips outside so bed wetting doesn’t become a problem, but for exercise walks and play sessions, you could accommodate this sweet older dog’s catnaps.
Citizen Canine readers, do you have any tips for older dogs who are deaf?