Hearing or Vision Impaired Dogs Do Just as Well as ‘Normal’ Counterparts
ABSTRACT ONLY Only an abstract of this article is available.
PEER REVIEWED This article has been peer reviewed.
The population of owned dogs with disabilities is on the rise. This is partly because of greater awareness of and attention to these dogs by the general public. People are more accepting of animals with special needs, and there are various discussion groups and websites dedicated to supporting these dogs and developing their training. Even though people are more willing to care for special needs dogs, "little empirical data exist that describe how dogs with disabilities behave or how their owners train them, particularly dogs that are deaf and/or blind." Scientifically gathered data, rather than the anecdotal patchwork of testimony that exists, would be very useful to the many guardians of special needs dogs.
Research published in the Journal Of Veterinary Behavior studied hearing / vision impaired (HVI ) dogs and concluded that "HVI dogs do not show increased risk of significant behavior problems" compared to "normal" dogs. There was found to be increased incidence of "sensory behaviors" such as chewing, barking, and licking, while aggression and excitability were within or below the rates of normal dogs. The authors hope that these findings may open up further socialization opportunities for HVI dogs, such as agility training, which is often off limits for these dogs. Though they recognize that owning HVI dogs "not for everyone." The researchers note that it is important for vets, vet behaviorists, and animal behaviorists (and, though they don't mention it, animal advocates!) to recognize the positive behavioral abilities of these dogs and "provide appropriate assistance and guidance for those owners willing to take an HVI dog as a pet." HVI dogs make great companions, and any further support for these animals would be warmly welcomed.