Are Puppies Born Deaf?

Puppies are interesting creatures, no doubt, and very different from humans, even though both dogs and humans are mammals. Of course, dogs and humans share some similarities as well. 

Puppies, for example, go through adolescence like humans do (and make things cray cray for their parents when they do, just like kids). 

Like a child, a puppy can’t fend for itself when it’s very young, although that changes much more rapidly than it does with children. (Ask anyone who’s ever been bitten by a puppy, and they’ll agree.)

I was thinking about these differences the other day when looking at some 3-day-old puppies that had just been born at the local shelter where I volunteer. Their eyes were closed, and they were bumping heads (all 6 of them) while trying to find their momma’s teat.

Knowing I was a relative expert on puppies, another volunteer asked me an interesting question about one of the other 5 senses a puppy (just like a human) has; are puppies born deaf?

The answer is that, yes, puppies are born deaf. In fact, their sense of hearing is the last of their 5 senses to develop, the others being sight, smell, taste, and touch. 

A puppy won’t be able to hear a thing until it’s about three weeks old. After that point, when their ears start functioning, they will hear much more than you do, as a dog’s hearing is 4x as acute as a human’s. (They hear more frequencies, too, which is why dog whistles work.)

Now that you know that puppies are born deaf, it’s a good bet you have other questions about this essential sense. Why are puppies born deaf, for example, and can a puppy suffer deafness its entire life?

For those answers and several more, please keep reading. I’ve got them for you below, as well as the answers to several other important questions about your puppy’s hearing.

Can Dogs be Born Deaf?

When a person asks if dogs can be born deaf, they’re usually referring to congenital deafness rather than the deafness that all puppies go through in the first two or three weeks of their lives.

The answer is that dogs can be born with congenital deafness and will never be able to hear anything. The good news is that, like visually impaired humans, dogs can rely on their other 4 senses to get by.

Why are Some Puppies Born Completely Deaf?

As I mentioned earlier, all puppies are born deaf, and hearing is the last of their senses to develop completely; most puppies won’t be able to hear anything until they are between 3 and 4 weeks old.

Like humans, though, occasionally, a puppy will be born completely deaf, meaning that even after three or four weeks, it will never be able to hear. This condition is called congenital deafness and affects several different breeds of dogs more than others.  

Those dog breeds include Old English Sheepdogs, Shetland Sheepdogs, Bull Terriers, Dalmatians, and Australian shepherds. Researchers and veterinarians believe that Dalmatians on Jack Russell Terriers inherit a nerve disorder from their doggie parents, which causes deafness.

Deafness affects dog breeds with a piebald or merle coat pattern more often, although that isn’t the only precursor to congenital deafness. In some cases, deafness in puppies is caused when the nerves in their ear don’t form correctly, although it’s relatively rare.

How Can I Tell If My Puppy was Born Deaf?

It’s quite difficult to tell if a puppy is deaf in the first few weeks of its life. However, once they get a little older, you might notice that they bark much less frequently than other puppies.

A puppy born congenitally deaf might also have a voice that sounds odd and develop behavior problems because they can’t understand what their humans are saying. 

Being deaf, it will be more difficult to train a puppy as they won’t be able to hear what you’re saying and learn what your commands mean.

Congenitally deaf dogs are also startled more easily than dogs with normal hearing and, because of that, will sometimes bite reflexively.  For this reason, a good habit is to make sure your puppy can see you coming, stomp your feet or do something to let them know you are there.

Another way to tell that your puppy was born congenitally deaf is that they don’t react to loud noises as quickly as other dogs. Interestingly, they can feel the vibration of noise and react to that rather than the noise itself. 

The last way to tell if your puppy was born deaf is to contact your veterinarian and have them give your puppy a BAER test. BAER Is an acronym for Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response

Since the ear canals in your puppy’s ears don’t open until they are about 2 weeks old, the BAER test can’t be carried out until then. Most veterinarians recommend testing your puppy for deafness between 5 and 7 weeks.

Can a Deaf Puppy Regain Hearing?

Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, a puppy that was born with congenital deafness will never regain their hearing. (They never had it to begin with.)

The reason is that all or part of the nerves that connect their ear to their brain aren’t functioning or weren’t developed fully. If those nerves don’t develop fully when a puppy is in the womb or during its first few weeks of life, the likelihood of hearing later is practically zero.

A puppy born with the ability to hear might lose its hearing due to medication. In that case, it’s possible that your pup’s hearing will return once their ears heal.

What Dog Breeds are Prone to Deafness?

Unfortunately, congenital deafness has been seen in over 80 different breeds of dogs. As I mentioned earlier, puppies with merle coats are more affected than other breeds. 

Also, dogs and puppies with white skin and fur are more likely to be born congenitally deaf, as are dogs with spots like Dalmatians. The breeds of dogs most commonly affected by congenital deafness include:

  • Dalmatians
  • Cocker spaniels
  • English Setters
  • Australian cattle dogs
  • Bull Terriers
  • Parson Russell Terriers
  • Jack Russell Terriers
  • Boston Terriers 
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Beagles
  • Greyhounds
  • Border Collies
  • Salukis
  • Schnauzers

Keep in mind that any breed of dog can be born congenitally deaf, and it can be due to both hereditary and acquired health problems.

How Do You House Train a Deaf Puppy?

House training a deaf puppy isn’t impossible, but it certainly is more challenging. Below are several tips that will help you train your deaf puppy not to go potty inside.

  • Take them outside very often. As a puppy, that means every 30 minutes or so. In time, they will start to understand that going outside means going potty.
  • Don’t leave your deaf puppy outside. Doing this will often convince your pup that they’re only outside to play and run around.
  • Put your deaf puppy on a leash when going outside to go potty. If they don’t show any signs of wanting to pee, go back inside. Try again in 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Come up with your own hand gesture to let your puppy know it’s time to go potty. It can be anything you want as long as you use it consistently.
  • Until they’re fully potty-trained, don’t let your deaf puppy roam your house freely. Putting them in a sturdy pen or crating them is a better choice.
  • Get into a puppy potty routine and be consistent with it.
  • Reward your deaf puppy every time they successfully go potty outside. Give them a treat, scratch their head, let them off the leash for a few minutes, etc.

Final Thoughts

You now know that all puppies are born deaf, but the vast majority of them will acquire their sense of hearing at about 3 to 4 weeks old. Yes, some breeds of dogs are more prone to congenital deafness, but it’s still a relatively small minority.

I hope today’s blog on puppies and deafness has been extremely helpful and will empower you to raise your deaf puppy into a well-adjusted and happy adult dog. Please see my other blogs if you have more questions or would like to learn more about being a pet parent. All are filled with excellent advice, information, and tips to help you raise any puppy into a happy, healthy adult dog.