This past weekend, we went to pick up our newest member of the family, Piper, who is 15 months old.
“A new furball right before a baby?” you ask. “Are you nuts?!?”
Perhaps, but in B’s words, “I find that when I do what I want to do and stop letting what other people think get in my way, I’m a lot happier.”
We’re happy with her. Callie has a playmate that is her equal and far more interested in wrestling and tug games than Bandit. Bandit has another cuddle buddy who likes to chew as hard as he does on the toys.
Most importantly, Piper has a home and other dogs to help keep her challenged and feeling secure, all at the same time.
See, Piper is deaf, the result of genetics- too much white. I did some research on this… fascinatingly, dogs who aren’t supposed to be mostly white depend on pigmentation in the hairs in their ears. If they are “double merle” (red merle and blue merle both) or white, then they don’t have the pigmentation needed to make these hairs do the job of collecting sounds the way they are supposed to. I didn’t know that. This is a PDF that explains the connection between coloring and deafness for Australian Shepards (she’s not AS- she’s Catahoula with maybe some Australian Cattle Dog in her background).
We have a fun challenge of re-thinking clicker training and applying it to a deaf dog. Clearly, she can’t hear the clicks of the clicker to indicate that she’s demonstrating a desired behavior. But she can see and she has a nose to rival Callie’s. So… our “clicker” for Piper is going to be mini flashlight keychains. Our strategies for teaching her to work from a distance will include using various scents to attract her attention.
Our daily communication will be a combination of standard training hand signals and ASL. Bandit and Callie have an extensive vocabulary, because we talk to them about what we are doing, we read and sing with them, and… well, we talk to them. A lot. Piper deserves no less, so we are learning to remember to sign and talk at the same time a lot more- or switch to sign only, since Callie and Bandit know several signs, as well. As a deaf dog, touch is an important part communicating effectively with her, and so we are brushing up on what we know about TTouch and plan to learn more.
Our goals for Piper ultimately involve having her do therapy work with children and adults who use sign as a primary mode of communication. Immediately, we are working on establishing trust and focus (“watch me”), so that she pays more attention when we sign to her, or when the other dogs are using body language to communicate with her.
She will also be Pud’s buddy. Callie will be his “Nana”; Bandit, his teddy bear; but Piper- she’ll be his constant playmate and get him into all kinds of trouble. There’s no bond like the one between a boy and his dog.