Adopting a Deaf Dog: Meet Winston the English Setter

Deaf dog
Deaf dog

Winston the deaf English Setter

I am thrilled to announce that I’ve adopted another dog. Please welcome Winston the English Setter to the Free Wheelin’ family. Winston is 1 year old and was born deaf. He seems to have some ability to hear high pitches. I am still working on determining the extent of his deafness.

I’ve wanted an English Setter for almost 20 years, and since I’m disabled myself, I always hoped I would be in the position to provide a home for a pet with a disability. I was open to adopting a deaf dog, so Winston seemed like the perfect match. He comes from a line of quality hunting dogs, but was apparently abandoned by his owner and ended up in a Georgia animal shelter. That’s when Above and Beyond English Setter Rescue stepped in. They rescued him, got him neutered and treated for a skin infection, then placed him in one of their wonderful foster homes. I filled out their adoption application and after a home visit, they approved me and their network of volunteer drivers transported him to Kentucky. I was there on one of my many road trips, so I just picked him up and brought him home.

Deaf English Setter Winston

Winston is a sweetheart

Winston is one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met, and loves everyone. He was slightly afraid of my dogs at first, but they started playing together within an hour. I was thrilled to capture a video of the very first moment when he played with Aria. Since then they’ve been nonstop every day, racing around the yard with pure joy in their hearts. Winston already has many friends, including my dogs and my friends’ dogs who come over frequently. We’ll be visiting the dog park soon, too.

My dogs have picked up on the fact that there’s something different about Winston. For example, when there’s someone at the door, the other dogs will hear them and start barking. Winston will join in but then run to the wrong door. They will follow him, but then realize they went the wrong direction and give him a look as if to say “uhh, dude, why did you lead us this way?” before going back to the correct source of the sound. So they probably think he’s a little weird, but they love him and they all play well together. Dogs are very accepting and nonjudgmental of each other, just as they are with people.

Winston gets dog shamed

Winston is a naughty puppy!

I was told he was 3-4 years old, but I’ve since verified with the breeder that he was born in July 2014. This explains why he has been a bit more unruly and destructive than I was expecting. He’s extremely agile and able to completely jump onto my desk and kitchen table – with all 4 feet! I see an agility class in his future. As you can see, he had some fun with plastic bags and with one of my ottomans when I wasn’t home. Luckily I regard these things as potentially par for the course when getting a new dog, and he’s too cute to stay mad at him for long. I’ve blocked off access to the living room for now, and since then everything has been fine. I feel it’s important to mention that his behavior is purely due to him being a puppy who never had a stable home or learned proper manners, and is totally unrelated to his deafness.

Dogs are deaf because of a lack of pigmentation in their inner ear hairs. It’s genetically linked with certain coat colors, namely spotted and merle patterned dogs. Approximately 10% of English setters are born with some degree of hearing impairment. Owning a deaf dog is only slightly more challenging than a dog that can hear. They can learn hand signals, and tend to be very focused on their humans. They are no more likely to be aggressive than a dog that can hear. It’s important to never let deaf dogs off leash except in a securely fenced area, and to train your dog to be attentive to you. Always use positive training methods with ANY dog, including deaf dogs. You can use clicker training by substituting a thumbs-up hand sign or flashlight on/off in place of a clicker.

If you’re looking to add a new furry family member, I highly recommend adopting a deaf dog. Please enjoy Winston’s “unboxing” video to see how wonderful a deaf dog can be.

Useful products for deaf dogs

Here is a list of items that I and others I know use and recommend for deaf dogs. By purchasing through our Amazon links you help buy Winston’s dog treats and support our travels. Thanks!


Adopt a Deaf Dog

Here are some links to resources with more information about deaf dogs, and rescues that may have deaf dogs in need of homes.

Deaf English Setters

English setters are one of the sweetest breeds of dog. I call them the best kept secret in dogs because they are far less popular than golden retrievers and labs, but just as wonderful. Most English Setters in the USA are bred for hunting, so most setters in rescue were abandoned by someone who stopped hunting, or the dog didn’t like to hunt, or they have some type of medical need such as deafness. English setters are typically great with people of all ages and get along with other dogs. Some get along with cats, while others have too strong of a hunting instinct. About 10% of English setters have some degree of hearing impairment, so if you are looking to adopt a deaf dog, setters are a good choice. All of the rescues listed below accept deaf dogs – be sure to check them to see if they have the new friend you seek.

Deaf English Setter Information – General info about deafness in English Setters

Above & Beyond English Setter Rescue – the rescue from whom I adopted Winston. They help many special needs dogs, including deaf dogs. They adopt nationwide, but primarily in the Midwest, South, and East Coast.

Our English Setter Rescue – another great setter rescue primarily serving the Midwest.

Another Chance for English Setters – national organization with many dogs available

A Better English Setter Rescue – serving the East Coast and some Midwest

Southwest English Setter Rescue – serving the southwestern states

Western States English Setter Rescue – CA, ID, etc.

Other Deaf Dog Resources

Deaf Dogs Rock – my favorite website for general deafness information and training resources. They sponsor deaf dogs of all breeds to help them find safe homes.

Deaf Dog Education Action Fund – useful information and training tips

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