Initially published in 1997 (3rd publication in 2000), Susan Cope Becker's Living with a Deaf Dog has become a classic among those who own and love deaf dogs. The author wrote this book to fill a need when she discovered that her own dog was deaf and that information on the care and training of deaf dogs was not readily available. The book shares her experiences and the experiences of other deaf dog owners and experts that the author consulted.
Becker humbly acknowledges her limitations. She admits that she is not a behaviorist, trainer or scientist but that she is the owner of a deaf Boston terrier and therefore has "on the job" experience. The book discusses her dismay as she discovers that her own dog is deaf, her frustration with the dearth of information available to those who own a deaf dog, and offers hope and inspiration. This very readable paperback aims to help educate and comfort the deaf dog owner, as well as challenge the widely-held belief that deaf dogs are inherently unstable and incapable of being adequate companions. That being said, the author sensibly points out that deaf dogs are not a fad or a novelty, that they should not be bred, and that they are not the best choice for an inexperienced dog owner.
The author covers all bases, albeit briefly. She segues from her personal experience through general information about deafness, as well as offering practical tips for life with a deaf dog. Some of the basic training advice is uninspired, for example, "Spend about 10 to 15 minutes on sit, pushing your dogs (sic) rump down to a sitting position, rewarding with a treat and/or touch." Yet she stresses that deaf dogs are fundamentally dogs and encourages the reader to find training books and classes that suit their own philosophy. Many readers will find the graphic depictions of hand signals to be useful.
If someone has a lot of experience living with a deaf dog, this book may feel too basic, but that is also its very charm. It reaches out to the new deaf dog owner with sincerity, humility, simplicity, and a down-to-earth style. If a new owner discovered that their dog was deaf, this book would provide the pat on the back that says, "Hey, it's okay, you're not alone." The final chapter shares stories of deaf dogs that spells out the latter message best. I admit that I'm biased; Woof (page 96) was a dear, personal friend of mine.
Some of the information (eg., web site links, listing of sites that perform BAER testing, etc.) may not be current, but the book is still worth reading as a starting point in appreciating the deaf dog. I'd love to see an updated and expanded edition of this book, but even in its current form, it's still a worthwhile read. It's a good gift idea for someone with a deafness-prone breed or someone contemplating getting a deaf dog.
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