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Give Deaf dalmatians a chance at life

This petition had 1,300 supporters

Every day, dalmatian puppies over 5 weeks old, are being taken for a BAER hearing test. When the result of this test shows a level of deafness in both ears breeders have the option to put this puppy to sleep. This can happen at the test centre or afterwards through their local vet and is the owner/breeder 's choice. Humane euthanasia is never seen as being cruel by vets, so the easiest way for some breeders to hide or deal with deafness is to get rid of the evidence. We believe that someone needs to take responsibility for the welfare of these puppies, who didn't ask to be born and are not aware of what they can or cannot hear.

Times have changed, society is more open, aware and accepting of disabilities and special needs. We want to see a world where being different isn't assumed to be a bad thing. Not enough is known about the recessive gene that causes deafness in dalmatians, but one of the things we do know is that two hearing dalmatians will also produce deaf puppies. Some steps have already been taken to reduce the occurrence (not breeding from dogs that are deaf in one or both ears). The British Dalmatian Club are already streets ahead of their American counterparts (who actively encourage euthaniasia of deaf pups). We would urge them to go one step further, taking into account recent genetic research findings and the knowledge and experience of a large number of deaf dog owners.

We are urging the British Dalmatian Club to consider the following:

  • The creation of an informative and supportive policy on Deaf dalmatians that will increase breeder awareness, signpost to support networks and ultimately discourage members from using euthanasia as the only/preferred way of taking responsibility for deaf puppies
  • Reconsider their position on 'breeding from' dalmatians with 'patches' in order to further reduce the number of deaf puppies being born and put to sleep.

(please note that the breed standard now states that patches on ears should not be penalised) 

We are signing this petition because we feel that euthanising an otherwise healthy deaf puppy is wrong

In order to support the British Dalmatian Club, we have collated the information below and have signposted to other organisations that can provide further information and support


Dalmatian deafness - what you need to know

  • Deafness in dalmatians is common - between 15%-30% have some form of hearing loss
  • around 5% of dalmatians are deaf in both ears (bilateral deafness)
  • Dalmatians are homozygous recessive for the extreme piebald gene
  • Deafness is a a linked poly genetic disorder associated with this gene
  • Inheritance of this gene makes it likely that deafness is also inherited (Webb and Cullen, 2010) 
  • Where the gene is passed on but incomplete the puppy develops a patch and is less likely to be deaf (Strain et al, 1992) (Muhle et al, 2002) (Juraschko et al, 2003) 
  • Dalmatians with patches are therefore less likely to be deaf but have historically a oatch has been considered a fault.  This is no longer the case due to recent updates to the breed standard
  • Deafness is more common in dogs with blue eyes (usually a sign that the extreme piebald gene has had maximum penetration)
  • Only dogs with normal hearing should be bred from (British Dalmatian club)
  • This approach of not breeding from deaf dogs will only have limited impact on the prevalence of deafness (Wood and Lakhani, 1997)
  • Parents with normal hearing also have deaf puppies
  • There are a lot of myths about the impact of deafness...these include being easily startled, not being good with children, more likely to be hit by a car, needs a hearing buddy dog friend, being a ticking time bomb/ accident waiting to happen or more of a challenge to train
  • These myths are anecdotal and are not based on any scientific evidence
  • On the whole, deaf dog owners are aware of their differing needs and feel that these myths are biased and unfounded


Deaf dogs are easy to startle
How many dog owners give their dogs a verbal warning before they touch them? Being startled by someone's touch demonstrates that the dog hasn't become used to it and therefore is frightened when it happens. A dog that is used to being touched all over (or is rewarded every time somebody surprises them) will consequently be happy to be touched. Deafness does not create fear or nervousness, early training and socialisation will provide the best outcome for your dogs behaviour. It is normal for a dog or human to startle when something loud/unexpected happens.

Deaf dogs can't be trusted or homed with children
Not being able to hear can sometimes be a benefit! Deaf dogs aren't startled or frightened by a baby crying or a toddler screaming. However, not all dogs are suitable to live with children and this should be considered carefully by any potential dog owner. Temperament, breed, age of children, size of dog are all areas that need careful thought. Training of dogs and children is ongoing and a big responsibility. In the case of dalmatians, having a big bouncy puppy that nips and jumps alongside a small toddler may be more work than they want to take on. Being deaf, in itself is no excuse (or reason) for negative behaviours and therefore has little-no impact on a dogs ability to live with, or love children. The other areas however, should be taken into account and both dogs and children taught how to respect each other.

Deaf dogs are more likely to be hit by a car
The road traffic act (1988) makes it an offence for dogs to be off lead on a designated road. Owners/keepers are also liable for any damage caused by their dog and should keep them under their control at all times (Animals Act 1971). With this in mind, pet dogs should not be permitted to make the decision of when it is safe to cross a road. Deaf and hearing dogs can be trained to follow a 'stay' or 'wait' command and should also be on lead when on a road. There are no statistics that indicate that deaf dogs have been involved in more accidents, but accidents can happen to anyone (and any dog).

Your deaf dog will need to be homed with another dog (hearing) that can be its 'buddy'
Deaf dogs don't need a buddy to help them to hear, they need an alternative mode of communication. Having another dog may cue the deaf dog in to things he/she hasn't noticed, but when this is the postman or another dog this can also be a bad thing. If you choose to have more than one dog, thats fine, but you dont need to own a hearing dog in order to be able to train a deaf one.

Deaf dogs are a ticking time bomb or an accident waiting to happen, they are a challenge to train and this is more than what most people can provide

A recent study surveyed 461 dog owners and compared their behaviours. They found that deaf dogs were less likely to show aggression than those with normal hearing and summarised that deaf dogs are as trainable as normal hearing dogs. (Farmer-Dougan et al, 2014) interestingly more of the deaf dog owners had also attended puppy training classes and so showed more motivation to train their dogs. Dogs learn through social interaction with other dogs and through positive reinforcement (or operant conditioning) where a reward stimulus is given in order to reinforce desired behaviours. The only difference for deaf dogs, is the label you give to the desired behaviour - using gestures or hand signals rather than voice. The reward can be the same, toys, food or a thumbs up and a big smile! If you want your deaf dog to look at you in order to give a command, you will need to gain their attention without the use of voice, a tap on the shoulder/hips or large and fast movements can be useful. A shift in thinking about how we adapt to our dogs needs doesn't have to be challenging or difficult. A few key hand signals can be made up or learnt very quickly, its the dedication to training your high energy puppy thats the difficult part! Deaf dogs don't know (or care) about what they cant hear but they can see you and your body language just fine.


What is the BAER test for deafness?
A Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response is performed on dalmatians from 5 weeks old. It could be earlier, from 3 weeks of age, however the nature of dalmatian congenital deafness causes damage to occur in the cochlear (the hearing nerve) during the first 5 weeks of life. So testing needs to take this into account. Three small needles (the size of acupuncture needles) are inserted under the skin and when connected to computer software, are used to measure the waveform of activity in the auditory nerve that sends sound messages from the cochlear to the brain. Sounds (clicks) that reflect the normal 'human' range of hearing are played to the puppy. This technique is also used on (and was designed for) humans but is referred to as an Auditory Brainstem Response (or ABR) in the UK. In hearing dogs and people the auditory nerve shows 4 peaks in response to hearing a series of clicks (usually through headphones). Where deafness is present the peaks are much less evident as the waveform can look flat.  So the test shows us how 'normal' the auditory nerve is responding.  What it doesnt tell us is how the dog will respond to individual frequencies or speech.  The test cant predict outcomes for what the brain will be able to interpret and it doesnt include frequencies that dogs can hear but humans cannot. This link explains the limitations of the BAER test in more detail...

If all deaf puppies were put to sleep and/or not bred from, would this eradicate deafness in dalmatians?

No. Research findings indicate that congenital sensorineural (permanent) deafness in dalmatians is inherited through non-allelic heterogeneity (Kluth & Distl, 2015). This means that mutations occurring in different genes can be the cause of the deafness. There is no single gene cause and each of the mutations can independently cause a puppy to be bilaterally deaf (hearing loss in both ears). This makes it extremely complex and difficult to predict which hearing dogs will produce a deaf puppy.

Wont it be more difficult for breeders to find good homes for deaf puppies?

Maybe! However, most breeders want their beloved pups to go to dedicated homes, being more aware of deafness and the adaptations their deaf pup will need puts them in a better position to be able to find and support prospective deaf dog owners. The Deaf Dog Network and Scottish Dalmatian Welfare are able to support in finding suitable homes as well as providing advice to breeders and owners.

Is it difficult to get pet insurance for a deaf dog?

Not at all, one or two insurance providers have refused to cover deaf dogs in the past.  However, owners that have declared their dog to be deaf have not reported any issues with the majority of pet insurance providers.

Useful links


Farmer-Dougan, V., Quixk, A., Harper, K., Schmidt, K., Campbell, D (2014) Behaviour of Hearing or Vision impaired and normal hearing and vision dogs: Not the same but not that different. Journal of Veterinary Behaviour: Clinical Applications and Research. 9. 6. 316-323

Juraschko K., Meyers-Lindenberg A., Nolte I., Distl O., (2003) Analysis of systemic effects on congenital sensorineural deafness in German Dalmatian dogs. Vet. J. 166: 164–169.

Kluth, S., Dstl, O. (2015) Congenital Sensorineural Deafness in Dalmatian Dogs Associated with Quantitative Trait Loci. [online] available from

Kay, R., Palmer, AC., Taylor, PM. (1984) hearing in the dog as assessed by auditory brainstem eked potentials. Veterinary Record. 144.4: 81-84

Muhle A. C., Jaggy A., Stricker C., Steffen F., Dolf G., et al., (2002) Further contributions to the genetic aspect of congenital sensorineural deafness in Dalmatians. Vet. J. 163: 311–318.

Strain GM, Kearney MT, Gignac IJ, Levesque DC, Nelson HJ, Tedford BL and Remsen LG (1992) Brainstem Auditory-Evoked Potential Assessment of Congenital Deafness in Dalmatians: Associations With Phenotypic Markers. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 6: 175–182

Webb AA and Cullen CL (2010) Coat color and coat color pattern-related neurologic and neuro-ophthalmic diseases. Canadian Veterinary Journal 51: 653–657

Wood JLN and Lakhani KH (1997) Prevalence and prevention of deafness in the Dalmatian—Assessing the effect of parental hearing status and gender using ordinary logistic and generalized random litter effect models. The Veterinary Journal 154: 121-133

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