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Is My Dog Deaf or Just Ignoring Me? What You Need To Know - PawSafe

Is My Dog Deaf or Just Ignoring Me? What You Need To Know

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

why is my deaf dog just ignoring me

Dog owners have experienced the frustration of calling their dog’s name without a response. When this happens occasionally, it can lead to the question, “Is my dog deaf or just ignoring me?” This is actually a very valid question because astoundingly many owners can go years before realizing their dog is deaf or has hearing problems and not just disobedient.

While it may seem like your dog is purposely ignoring you, there are several reasons why they may not be responding to your calls. Like humans, dogs can experience age-related hearing loss, making it difficult to hear high-pitched sounds. 

Dogs’ curiosity and their keen sense of smell can make them easily distracted, ignoring their owner’s calls. This can be both embarrassing and frustrating, especially during walks. If this is you, this printed work is yours. With the aid of expert Steven Lindsay, we have compiled all you need to know about your pet and how to differentiate between behavioral issues and hearing issues.

Remember that dogs may occasionally ignore commands, so consistent unresponsiveness to auditory cues is a crucial indicator of potential deafness.  An ignorant dog will respond to the noise around their surroundings but choose not to react. 

It’s also important to note that some dogs may pretend to be deaf to avoid doing something they don’t want. If you suspect this may be the case, you can try using a different tone of voice or body language to see if your dog responds. 

If you’re unsure whether your dog is ignoring you or has a hearing problem, you can use dog hearing test tools to get closure of your dog’s state. It’s best to consult with your veterinarian. They can perform a hearing test to confirm if your dog has hearing loss.

Understanding Dog Sensory Input

A Beagle dog ignoring a woman behind her that is shouting for attention.

If you think your dog has hearing problems, you may be right. However, consider the way that dog’s senses differ from ours. For humans who have all five senses, we typically rely mostly on our eyes as our primary sense. We focus on what we see first and then what we hear. Most of the time, smells and scents are the last thing that draws our attention, and the smell has to be pretty strong before we take notice.

For dog’s, smell typically comes first. After that, seeing something move, like a squirrel, will typically trump anything they can hear. So if a dog smells a squirrel and sees one running, they probably won’t respond to your calls unless you have trained an excellent recall. In these situations, your dog may seem deaf, but it just means that their other senses are more stimulating and demanding than your voice.

You can see this article if rather than being deaf, your dog is simply not listening to you.

Signs of Deafness in Dogs

signs of deafness in dogs

Deafness is a condition that can affect any dog breed, age, or gender. Dogs that are deaf may have difficulty responding to commands and appear to be ignoring their owners. Additionally, certain breeds are more prone to hearing loss, such as Dalmatians, Cocker Spaniels, Australian Shepherds, Boston Terriers, and Maltese, just to name a few.

Dogs with spots, dapples, merle, or white coats are more likely to be born deaf than other breed types due to their genetics. However, it’s important to note that just because your dog may not respond to your calls doesn’t necessarily mean they are deaf.

Here are some signs that may indicate your dog is deaf:

1. Behavioral Changes

A white West Highland White Terrier paws in owners hand looking up at owner

If your dog was born deaf, they might not exhibit unique behavior other than not responding to auditory stimuli. However, if deafness comes later, your dog may have some behavioral changes as they cope.

For example, your dog may become more anxious or nervous. They may also start to bark more frequently or become more aggressive. 

2. Response to Stimuli

Dogs that are deaf may not respond to auditory stimuli the same way as dogs that are not deaf. However, your dog may occasionally respond to loud noises by barking. It is recommended not to touch your deaf dog unexpectedly as this could startle them and may bite you. 

3. Health Check Indicators

Deafness can sometimes indicate other health problems. For example, some dogs that are deaf may have ear infections or other ear-related issues.

4. Excessive Sleeping

Deaf dogs may sleep more than usual, as they don’t respond to auditory stimuli that might typically wake them up or keep them alert.

5. Vibrations

Deaf dogs may become more attuned to vibrations in the floor, walls, or furniture as they rely on their sense of touch and sight to compensate for their hearing loss.

6. Unaware of Approaching People or Other Pets

Deaf dogs may not hear or notice when people or other animals approach them. This can sometimes lead to startle or aggression if they are suddenly touched or surprised.

7. Vocalization Changes

Some deaf dogs may change their vocalization patterns. They may bark more, bark less, or produce unusual vocalizations due to their inability to hear.

Why Do Dogs Ignore You?

Dogs can be incredibly attentive and responsive to their owners, but sometimes they ignore us altogether. This can be annoying and result in wondering why your dog is not listening to you, especially when you’re trying to train or get their attention. However, there are several reasons why dogs might ignore their owners.

1. Training Issues

One possible reason your dog is ignoring you is that they need to be adequately trained. Dogs need consistent training and reinforcement to learn what you expect from them. If your dog has yet to be trained to respond to certain commands or cues, they may simply not understand what you’re asking them to do. 

For example, if you sometimes reward your dog for jumping up on you and sometimes scold them, they may not know when it’s appropriate to jump up and when it’s not.

2. Boredom

Dogs need mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy. If your dog isn’t getting enough exercise or playtime, they may become bored and disinterested in interacting with you.

3. Distraction

Distractions can cause dogs to ignore their owners. If there are other people, animals, or noises around, your dog may be more interested in those things than in paying attention to your commands.

4. Insufficient Socialization

 When a dog hasn’t been exposed to different people, animals, and environments during their early development, they may struggle with focusing on commands in unfamiliar or social situations. To bring up a well-adjusted dog, start training them early when your dog is full of energy and eager to please. 

5. Health Issues 

Physical discomfort or health problems can make it difficult for a dog to respond to commands. Pain or discomfort can cause them to be less responsive or even irritable.

6. Fear or Anxiety

Dogs that are anxious or fearful may not respond to commands, as their primary concern is their safety. Addressing the underlying fear or anxiety issues is essential in these cases.

7. Inconsistent Commands

Using different words, tones, or gestures for the same command can confuse a dog. Consistency is key to training, so everyone in the household should use the same cues for each command.

8. Timing and Praise

Dogs need to be praised and rewarded immediately after following a command to reinforce the behavior. They may lose motivation to obey if the timing is off or there’s no reward.

9. Overuse of Commands

Repeating a command too many times can desensitize a dog to the word. If you use a command too frequently without follow-through, the dog may start to ignore it.

10. Age and Breed

Some breeds are more independent and less inclined to follow commands, while older dogs may have shorter attention spans. Understanding your dog’s breed and age can help set realistic expectations.

11. Relationship and Trust

Building a strong bond and trust with your dog is essential for effective training. Dogs that feel neglected or mistreated may be less inclined to obey.

12. Training Methods

Harsh or punitive training methods can make a dog anxious or fearful, leading to avoidance of commands. Positive reinforcement and reward-based training are more effective.

13. Selective Hearing

Dogs are known for their selective hearing, which can sometimes be mistaken for deafness. Selective hearing occurs when a dog chooses to ignore their owner’s commands now and then. A lack of training, distractions, or motivation can cause this behavior.

To determine if your dog is selectively hearing you or if they are deaf, try calling their name or making a loud noise when your dog is not looking. If your dog reacts, it’s likely not deaf and is just ignoring you.

Getting a Professional Opinion

If you suspect that your dog is deaf, it’s vital to get a professional opinion. A veterinarian or a dog trainer can help you determine whether your dog has hearing loss or is ignoring you.

Consulting a Veterinarian

The first step is to take your dog to a veterinarian for a thorough examination. The vet will check your dog’s ears for signs of infection or injury and conduct a hearing test to determine if your dog is deaf. If your dog is deaf, the vet may recommend further testing to determine the cause of the hearing loss.

Working with a Dog Trainer

If your dog is not deaf but seems to be ignoring you, a dog trainer can help. A professional dog trainer can assess your dog’s behavior and provide you with tips and techniques to help improve your communication with your dog. They can also help you teach your dog new commands and tricks.

It’s important to remember that dogs can become distracted or lose interest in training, so your training efforts must be patient and consistent. With the help of a professional, you can improve your relationship with your dog and ensure that they are happy and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What breeds of dogs are prone to deafness?

Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to deafness than others. These breeds include Dalmatians, Australian Cattle Dogs, English Setters, and Jack Russell Terriers. However, deafness can occur in any breed of dog.

What age do dogs go deaf?

Deafness in dogs can occur at any age, but it is more common in older dogs. Some breeds may experience hearing loss as early as one year old.

Can deafness in dogs be cured?

In some cases, deafness in dogs can be treated with medication or surgery. However, in most cases, deafness is permanent and cannot be cured.

How do dogs act when they are deaf?

Deaf dogs may exhibit certain behaviors, such as not responding to their name, not reacting to loud noises, and sleeping more soundly. They may also rely more heavily on their other senses, such as smell and touch.

How can I test my dog’s hearing at home?

One way to test your dog’s hearing at home is to make a loud noise, such as clapping your hands behind their head while they are facing away from you. If they turn around or react in any way, it indicates their hearing senses are working. However, this is not a definitive test, and a veterinarian should be consulted for a more accurate diagnosis.

Are deaf dogs clingy?

Deaf dogs may be more clingy than dogs with normal hearing. They rely heavily on their owners for communication and may feel more secure when close to them. However, this can vary depending on the dog’s personality and experiences.


Some of the most common signs of deafness in dogs include unresponsiveness to sounds, failure to react to their name being called, and being easily startled. On the other hand, if a dog is simply ignoring commands, they may exhibit other behaviors, such as disobedience or boredom, when they are with the owner. 

Owners should learn how to train their dogs and establish a clear communication system to ensure their pet is responsive and well-behaved. With proper care and attention, owners can ensure that their furry friends are healthy, happy, and responsive to their needs.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.