Old dog going deaf. How much to restrict off-lead exercise?

(8 Posts)
AlphaNumericalSequence Tue 19-Mar-19 07:54:58

I know no-one can answer this question for me. It has to be a case-by-case decision based on an individual dog and the walking environment. However, it would be great to hear other people's experience of making this decision.
My terrier is 13.5, still very active, and becoming significantly deaf. I think his vision has deteriorated a bit too.
There have been a few incidents recently where he has run off in the wrong direction and/or totally failed to hear me calling him. Sometimes I think he does hear the call a bit but gets confused about the direction its coming from.
I've always used a whistle as well as voice, but he often fails to hear that too. I've moved towards hand signals, which I have always used a bit as a reinforcement of sound commands. But of course those are no good if he loses sight of me.
His recall has always been excellent in the past - and still is when he hears me! But I don't want to take too many risks, especially since he is quarrelsome with other dogs.
I know I am going to move towards fewer and fewer off-lead opportunities, but because he is very active I feel really mournful about that and want to prolong the period when he can be off-lead on walks.
It would be great to hear of people's similar experiences, and how they have balanced the conflicting needs of exercise and safety.

OP’s posts: |
AlphaNumericalSequence Tue 19-Mar-19 08:14:11

Is there a vet here that could give any advice about the best whistle pitch for a hard-of-hearing dog?

My current dog whistle is low-ish pitched and it really doen't seem to work well for him.

In the past I have used an adjustable-pitch whistle. I lost it a couplbe of years ago. But it would be worth getting a new one if there was any clear evidence about some pitches being more audible than others for dogs with age-related hearing loss.

OP’s posts: |
AvocadosBeforeMortgages Tue 19-Mar-19 08:30:56

It sounds like you're doing almost all the sensible things I could suggest to mitigate against it all.

My only other suggestion would be to use a remote control vibrating collar for its one acceptable use case - deaf dogs, to get their attention. You'd need to make sure that the dog associated mild vibrations with recall and a treat so that it's not aversive. Obviously avoid one that also delivers electric shocks for fear of hitting the wrong button! I fear this suggestion will be controversial but there's no other circumstance in which I'd recommend that bit of kit, and you need to be careful not to use it as a punishment.

If he's likely to get himself into trouble the only other option is going to be a long line attached to a harness so he can still run but not run off.

AlphaNumericalSequence Tue 19-Mar-19 08:46:26

Thanks for that suggestion. I didn't realise that there were vibrating collars, though I had heard of the electric shock ones.

It does sound as though that could potentially be helpful provided that I didn't screw up by making him afraid of the vibration. It might be something that I could use a dog trainer to help me with.

I always use masses of reward to train him - he is SO highly motivated with toys that he is a joy to train in that respect. But it would be easy to unnerve him by mistake. He is a VERY wary dog and does not easily unlearn negative experiences! There is absolutely zero value in punishment for him (beyond a mildly stern tone) - which is as it should be.

OP’s posts: |
AlphaNumericalSequence Tue 19-Mar-19 08:52:11

... so I suppose the idea is that first of all you use a very mild vibration in the same way as you would use a clicker -- to indicate "That's right!" when he approaches you, and announce that a reward is coming. Then once you have made the association between vibration and reward, the vibration becomes a command. That sounds like it would only be a bad thing if it was ineptly introduced.

OP’s posts: |
Scattyhattie Tue 19-Mar-19 09:04:41

Friend used a vibrating collar to recall her deaf dog but I don't know how she trained, I expect there's a deaf dog FB group though. i'd also consider getting a dog trainer in for a 1-2-1 session for something like this just to help avoid training errors.

Can also use a long line so he can still have some freedom but can't get lost.

LimeJellyHead Sat 23-Mar-19 18:51:36

I trained my deaf dog with a vibrating collar. Train exactly the same way you train anything. It is no different, just a vibration instead of a hand signal or your voice.

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babyblackbird Sun 24-Mar-19 15:13:23

You could use a 10m long line - should give enough of a feeling of off lead - and you could leave it trailing behind your dog and have the safety net of being able to grab it if your dog starts heading too far in wrong direction

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