For decades the English Setter has been a firm favourite as a working dog and family pet. These charming dogs have a lot to boast about which includes an alert, kind nature paired to lovely looks. However, congenital deafness is a condition that plagues around 10% of the breed and it's a disorder puppies are born with that makes them either bilaterally or unilaterally deaf.
The gene responsible for congenital deafness is the piebald gene. It's this gene that gives these dogs their lovely spotted coats. When skin is unpigmented, hair colour is white, however, if unpigmented skin which is typically pink is found in a dog's inner ear it affects the nerve endings which dry up and die off which typically occurs during the first weeks after a puppy is born. The result is a deaf puppy. However, it's worth noting that it's impossible to see whether the hair in a puppy's inner ear is white by simply looking inside their ears and even some dogs born with darker coloured ears may prove to be deaf too.
It is crucial that breeders have all their puppies tested before they offer them for sale and other than the fact they are deaf, English Setter puppies are perfectly normal in every other way. Sadly, all too often a deaf puppy or young dog will end up in a rescue centre because their owners cannot cope, but in truth these lovely dogs make wonderful pets and can live out perfectly normal lives with the one difference being they have a good excuse for ignoring their owners when they can’t see them. A deaf English Setter will still point"" when they come across a bird, they act like setters should and will bark at any prey they come across. In short, a deaf English Setter makes a wonderful companion to have around.
Just because an English Setter is deaf does not mean they cannot be trained. The only difference is in the method used to do this has to be by way of hand signals rather than verbal commands. You need to be a little inventive when training a deaf dog which means using your arms to get their attention and to stamp on the floor with your foot which is another way of getting your dog to focus on you. Once you have their full attention, you then have to ""sign"" the command you want to teach them.
A deaf dog responds differently to a person's body language but it's their natural way of communicating with each other and if the truth be known, hearing dogs tend to respond that much better to signals than oral commands too. One thing about deaf dogs is they become incredibly focussed on their owners and quite often like to be close to them, although it's one of the traits that make the breed so very endearing whether a dog can hear or not.
Just because an English Setter is deaf doesn't mean life with them is boring because this could not be further from the truth. Naturally, because they are deaf they will not hear it when you open the fridge or open a new packet of biscuits. They will however soon react when their noses kick in and they get a whiff of what you are eating. Other things that makes life interesting includes:
When you live with a deaf English Setter, there are things you need to bear in mind so they always stay safe. One example being it would never be a good idea to let them off their leads in an area that's not 100% fenced off and secure.
Just because an English Setter is deaf does not mean they don't make fantastic family pets or companion dogs. You would have to train a young puppy or dog differently than you would hearing dog, but using signals and body language makes their training an easy task and the fact the dog is totally focussed on you once you have their attention, often makes it that much easier to train a deaf English Setter than it is a hearing dog.