Friday, May 22, 2009

Deaf Dog Myth #254

Last night in obedience class, Jun and I were working on a "stand" command (very difficult for Miss Perpetual Motion). There is a guy with a giant black Newf in the class and he was working right next to us, apparently not holding his dog's leash. So at some point the Newf (who is a very cool dog with a very cool name, Romulus, or something strong and manly sounding like that) decided that standing was boring and he was going to come over and check out what Jun was doing. Of course, as always, Jun noticed this before I did and started giving the Newf the stare of death. I noticed in time to step in front of Jun and try to block her view and block the Newf(emphasis on the trying part), yet the Newf kept coming. And despite the fact that the owner was about 3 steps away, he apparently didn't feel the need to grab his dog. So the Newf gets within about a foot of Jun's face and of course, being up against a wall with a giant dog bearing down upon her she goes Cujo on his ass. It was then that the Newf's owner decided to grab him. None of that is particularly remarkable, but what really got me was, after Jun got snarky, the instructor commented to the whole class "oh, she's deaf, so that means she can't read dog language very well."

Um . . . what? Now, I understand that there are lots of misconceptions about deaf dogs (number one being that they are harder to train than normal dogs--a misconception which I had already dispelled about six times that very night), but this is not even logical! Certainly not coming from someone who is supposedly educated about dogs and dog behavior and training. Dog communication is nearly 100% NON-verbal, i.e., it can be interpreted VISUALLY! There is nothing wrong with Jun's eyes, nor with her brain, so I'm really not understanding how her deafness affects her doggy communication skills. In fact, Lok is incredibly subtle in his communication style, but she understands and listens to him just fine (when he chooses to communicate that is, and I wish he would more often, rather than just giving me the "why, oh why, does she still live here" look).

I can't decide whether it's the illogic or the ignorance that is more aggravating. Not only can Jun read dog language, in this situation she DID read dog language and responded appropriately! She had a giant dog very rudely approaching her head-on with her back against a wall. The dog very stupidly ignored the clear "go away, I don't like you" message in her stare and her stiffened body posture. I think at that point it was clear which one of them was not adept at reading canine body language. Jun had no choice but to spell it out for him.

Sigh. The people who call themselves dog trainers.

On another note, I think tonight we may try an obedience fun match. That should be interesting.


  1. Doesn't is seem that there is always one dog owner in an obedience class who lets their dog do whatever it is he/she pleases? Regardless of how innapropriate or potentially dangerous it is?
    I experienced the wrath of a nasty, mean spirited male Boxer every night of obedience class. Well, not me... But Frankie. And his owner was rediculous. Hold onto your freakin dogs, people!
    Poor Jun... Being misread and misrepresented all because of an idiot Newf owner and an idiot dog trainer.
    And least YOU know what's going on! I dont know that much about dogs on a professional level and even I know that most dog language is not communicated verbally, but in body language. Some people....
    Good posted today!

  2. Wow. It wasn't Patty who said that was it, I can't believe she would say something SO stupid!

    It really aggrevates me when people let their dogs run up to any dog they please. They always say "oh he just wants to say hi!" which may be the case, or maybe not, but usually they have the rudest dogs who have no respect for my dog's personal space. I am already getting annoyed at one woman and her dog in our class!

  3. No, not Patty! Someone was subbing for her. I love Patty!!