Drew Stubbs and his four litter mates arrived in September in a transport that came from the south. They were a mixed breed, but mostly Australian cattle dog. Drew was a little heavier than the rest, and had a beautiful, pale blue merle coat with a lot of white. He stood out from the others not only because of his unique coat, but because he was a bit more shy and kept to himself. He seemed to sleep a lot, too – it was difficult to wake him. We thought he was a heavy sleeper.
He was the last of the litter to be adopted in mid-October. Two weeks after his initial adoption, his owners returned him. They discovered he was deaf, and decided that they were not able to manage the extra challenges of a special needs dog.
Drew Stubbs was a smart, sweet and attentive dog. Being deaf was not an impediment to happiness for him, and our canine coordinator, Amy, recognized his potential immediately. She knew we had to figure out how to translate our human language for him in a way that would make him successful in a home. Australian cattle dogs are known for wanting to work in partnership with a person as herding dogs and are intelligent and respond well to positive reinforcement. The odds were great that he could be homed and have a totally normal life.
Typically, dogs are trained with clickers and voice commands – training primarily done thru hearing. She reached out to others who had a lot of experience with training deaf dogs. Amy set out to develop ways for him to receive positive reinforcement through hand signals and a flashlight. She used these techniques to “shape” him to understand basic commands like “sit”, “down”, and “wait.”
Drew loved interacting with people and would join the staff in their weekly meetings. He was well on his way to adoption – now we needed to find the right parents who would be willing to take on the challenge. While we waited, the staff and volunteers all helped in his training. They learned how to train him, too.
Drew’s new parents came for him in early December. They clearly wanted to take on the commitment of Drew’s care, and they spent a lot of time with our staff understanding how to work with him. Rachel, our Training Center Manager, gave the family lessons and offered resources for any future needs.