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Deaf dog learns sign language in bid to find new forever home

Delilah, a white English bull terrier Staffy cross, suffers from congenital deafness and needs rehoming

A deaf dog, who has been in a rehoming centre for six years, is receiving specialist sign language training to help her find a new home.

Delilah, an eight-year-old white English bull terrier Staffy cross, suffers from congenital deafness, and is being taught how to sit down, watch and 'give the paw' among other commands.

Emma Taylor, assistant manager at the Harefield Dogs Trust centre, said: “Unfortunately the condition isn’t uncommon in white dogs, and often results in many ending up in rescue centres or abandoned when breeders are unable to sell or find homes for them.

“She came to us in 2009, and the family told us they were unable to give her the time she needed partly due to being deaf.

“Delilah is clever, happy and totally switched on. She’s a lovely dog, but doesn't like being left in the dark.”

She is being taught with the help of dog trainer and co-founder of the Deaf Dog Network Karen Lawe, who has five dogs of her own, three of which are deaf, and who has spent time helping training Delilah at the Dogs Trust centre.

She said: "I found Delilah to be a very friendly, eager to please dog and a very quick learner.

"I worked with her on the sign for good which is a thumbs up so she knows when she is doing well and you mark that further with fuss and treats.

"She also knows sit, down, paw, settle, and watch me. All training, be it with a deaf dog or not, is done with positive reinforcement methods - no force.

"There are a lot of myths about deaf dogs, such as they can never walk off lead or can’t be trained, but none of them are true - they are just dogs at the end of the day.

"Deaf dogs can do as much or as little as you'll allow them to do. They can be trained for agility, obedience, flyball or demos.

"The best thing about a deaf dog is the bond you build with them. They look to you and will check in with you.

"Eventually they will be able to not only read your sign language but they can read your body language and some have learnt to lip read.

"If you're hesitation in getting a dog is because it is deaf and that is your only hesitation they I would say, do not let that stop you. The help is there if you need it."

Emma Taylor, assistant manager at the Dogs Trust centre, added: “We hope Delilah’s specialist training will ultimately help find a loving family who understand the training involved with a deaf dog."

Anyone interested can call the rehoming centre direct on 01895 453 930 or visit the Dogs Trust website.

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