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  • Deb Bauer

Are All White Dogs Born Deaf?

White dog sits on white background.  Text says: Deaf Dog Awareness Week.  Are all white dogs born deaf?  Not all white dogs are deaf.  Not all deaf dogs are white.  Many deaf dogs are predominantly white because cells that create pigment also help to create healthy nerve endings in the ear.  Hence, a lack of pigment may also be linked to a lack of normal hearing.  Other dogs become deaf later in life due to aging, infection or injury.

Today kicks off Deaf Dog Awareness Week! Of course, this week is very near and dear to my heart, as I’ve worked with and lived with deaf dogs for over 30 years.

A common question I often hear is, "Are all white dogs born deaf?" While some white dogs are born deaf, not all of them are ...

Deafness in dogs is a relatively common occurrence. Many of us are first introduced to living with a deaf dog when our beloved dog becomes older. Many senior dogs begin to lose their hearing from the natural process of aging.

Some dogs may lose their hearing from an injury or an infection. And many other dogs are deaf from birth. There is a myth that all white dogs are deaf. While this may often be true, it certainly is not always true.

When I was first learning about deaf dogs, a veterinarian explained it to me this way:

There are cells called melanocytes that create pigment in the body - this is what causes coloring. The lack of these cells will mean there is no pigment in that area of the body (this can lead to the color we see as white).

People often think if a dog’s ears are white, the dog will be deaf. But what’s really important is whether those pigment cells are present way down inside the inner ear, where we can’t easily see. Without the pigment cells in that area, the nerve endings won’t develop properly - and neither will the dog’s hearing.

Pigment is important for the development of the nerve endings that allow the dog to develop normal hearing. But the color of the outside of the ear is not a good way to predict deafness. An ear may appear white, but there could still be enough pigment cells in the inner ear to allow hearing to develop.

Deafness is known to be more common in some breeds than others. It is also a known problem in mixing some of the popular designer mixed breeds and can also be linked to genetics surrounding dogs with the merle color pattern.

If you live with a deaf dog and would like to know more about how to adapt training and communication to best suit their needs, you may enjoy this self-paced program about using positive reinforcement and clicker training with deaf dogs. It will show you how to easily adapt the concepts of clicker training to use with dogs that can't hear a clicker.

If you'd like some one-to-one support to answer questions you may have, or to find out how to work specifically with your deaf dog, click the button below. I'd be happy to help!

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