Deaf dalmation given a new lease of life after learning sign language

Posted on 11:22 AM by Sameer Shah

A deaf dalmatian which was trapped in a world of its own has been given a new lease of life after learning sign language.

The spotted dog called Zoe was born profoundly deaf and had failed to bond with its owner who was forced to give her up.

But staff at an animal shelter began to teach the 18-month-old pooch basic sign language through a series of hand commands.

The black and white dog has now learned seven signs for sit, lie down, stay, dance, paw, kiss and 'good girl'.

A raised back of a hand means sit, a palm to the floor means 'lie down' and a back of the hand angled upwards means 'stay'.

Raising a palm skyward means 'dance' or 'jump', palm angled downwards means 'paw', and a pucker of the lips means 'kiss'.

Animal behaviour expert Gill Hodge has taught Zoe all of the commands at the Little Valley Animal Shelter in Exeter, Devon.

They are now searching for a home for the hard-of-hearing hound - and the new owner will be taught all of the commands.

Gill said: 'When Zoe came to us, she was very timid and lacked confidence, and it soon became apparent that she was deaf.

'Her deafness meant we could not train her with voice commands in the usual way, so we came up with the idea of sign language.

'Dogs naturally use their own form of sign or body language such as tail wagging when they are happy or raising their hackles when they feel threatened.

'Therefore it is not such a big step for us to communicate with them using a new set of signs, which they can learn.

'Our animal care staff started the training process by encouraging Zoe to look at their faces and keep her interest through eye contact and by giving her treats.

'Once they had her attention, they could to teach her some basic sign language, adding to her vocabulary as she became more confident.'

Gill says the new skills has made Zoe more confident and will help her communicate with prospective new owners.

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