Nebraska shelter teaches sign language to deaf dogs

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 5:41pm

It's a rare problem for one central Nebraska shelter: trying to communicate with two deaf dogs.

For one pit bull mix, that means learning sign language.

That’s right, signing!

One sign at a time, four year old Rosie is learning to connect.

"It's the only way to communicate with her," explained shelter volunteer, Tracie Pfeifle.

Animal advocates say that impairment could increase a deaf dog’s odds of having a tough life.

"They could be set up for abuse or neglect because they don't know how to interact and if they do interact, it's not appropriate," said Central Nebraska Humane Society’s executive director, Laurie Dethloff.

But with every sign volunteers say Rosie is becoming more socialized.

"You not only see the volunteer being excited about being able to communicate with, but her being able to understand, oh this is what you want and being able to do it," Dethloff explained.

But for another deaf dog here at the shelter, his help is coming from another canine.

"Noah is a very high energy, nine month old that can't hear, so it's very easy for him to tune you out," Kirkley said.

"Noah and Saint's relationship is unique. They don't get along with anybody but each other," Dethloff told KHGI-TV.

The two are separated right now as saint recovers from being neutered.

But when it comes to finding them a home, the shelter wants them together.

"It's going to be behaviorally and emotionally a lot more stable for both of them to have each other to learn off of," Dethloff said.

And when they learn to interact, volunteer Tracie Pfeifle says their owners will have something special:
"I think they're more sensitive to how you're feeling. A lot of people don't know they have a deaf dog, when they figure it out, all of the sudden you find out you have this really amazing animal."

All of the dogs are available for adoption at the Central Nebraska Humane Society, and if you're interested, the human society will of course teach you the signs to interact.



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