Deaf dogs learning sign language

It's a rare problem for one Central Nebraska shelter: trying to communicate with two deaf dogs. (CNN/KHGI)

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (CNN/KHGI) — It’s a rare problem for one Central Nebraska shelter: trying to communicate with two deaf dogs.

For one pit bull mix, that means learning sign language. One sign at a time, 4-year-old Rosie is learning to connect.

“It’s the only way to communicate with her,” said shelter volunteer Tracie Pfeifle.

Animal advocates say impairment could increase a deaf dogs’ odds of having a tough life.

“They could be set up for abuse or neglect because they don’t know how to interact, and if they do interact, it’s not appropriate,” said Laurie Dethloff, Central Nebraska Humane Society executive director.

But with every sign, volunteers say Rosie is becoming more socialized.

“You not only see the volunteer being excited about being able to communicate with, but her being able to understand, ‘Oh, this is what you want,’ and being able to do it,” said Dethloff.

For another deaf dog at the shelter, his help is coming from another canine.

“Noah is a very high-energy, 9-month-old that can’t hear, so it’s very easy for him to tune you out,” said Pfeifle.

“Noah and Saint’s relationship is unique,” said Dethloff. “They don’t get along with anybody but each other.”

The two are separated right now as Saint recovers from being neutered. But when it comes to finding them a home, the shelter wants them together.

“It’s going to be behaviorally — and emotionally — a lot more stable for both of them to have each other to learn off of,” said Dethloff.

And when they learn to interact, Pfeifle says their owners will have something special.

“I think they’re more sensitive to how you’re feeling,” said Pfeifle. “A lot of people don’t know they have a deaf dog. When they figure it out, all of the sudden you find out you have this really amazing animal.”

All of the dogs are available for adoption at the Central Nebraska Humane Society, and if you’re interested, the humane society will teach you the signs to interact. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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