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Deaf puppy has learned sign language in just eight weeks

Jo Le Page, 41, from Guernsey, Channel Island, discovered that her seven-month-old Spanish Water dog, Rafa, could not hear and has since taught him sign language

A deaf puppy learned sign language in just eight weeks – and knows how to follow hand signals to sit, turn and lie down.

Jo Le Page, 41, from Guernsey, Channel Island, discovered that her seven-month-old Spanish Water dog, Rafa, could not hear and has since taught him sign language.

The pooch has learned nine different signs including sit, stand, look at me, turn around, give paw, lay down, come, stay and safe – where he will walk under Jo’s legs, turn around and will stay there.

Jo Le Page, 41, from Guernsey, Channel Island, discovered that her seven-month-old Spanish Water dog, Rafa, could not hear and has since taught him sign language

Jo Le Page, 41, from Guernsey, Channel Island, discovered that her seven-month-old Spanish Water dog, Rafa, could not hear and has since taught him sign language

He can now also pick up a toy from the ground if Jo makes a “pick up” hand signal.

Rafa continues to learn more hand signals and Jo says her disability won’t limit her dog’s life.

She hopes people will stop being quick to put down disabled dogs or put them in a shelter.

The preschool worker and author said, “Rafa would turn his head when other puppies heard noises and followed them all.

Rafa learned sign language in just eight weeks - and knows how to follow hand signals to sit, turn and lie down

Rafa learned sign language in just eight weeks – and knows how to follow hand signals to sit, turn and lie down

Rafa is wearing a yellow harness that says

Rafa wears a yellow harness that says ‘I’m deaf, ask to pet me’ so audience members know he can’t hear

“He was always good at following other puppies’ cues. He’s very visually aware.

“A day after I got him, he wasn’t responding to any noise and he wouldn’t wake up when we walked in.

“He did not respond to the loud drilling noise or the triggering of the smoke detector. He can feel vibrations.

“He particularly stood out for us as he wanted lots of hugs and waited by the door as we left.

“Training is done entirely with hand signals. Thumbs up are used for praise.

Jo said that one day after owning the pup, she realized he wouldn't react to any noise and wouldn't wake up when the family came home.

Jo said that one day after owning the pup, she realized he wouldn’t react to any noise and wouldn’t wake up when the family came home.

Jo didn't know Rafa was deaf when she first acquired him from a local breeder in June 2022 until she brought him home

Jo didn’t know Rafa was deaf when she first acquired him from a local breeder in June 2022 until she brought him home

“You can’t use hands in a negative way, so it’s hard to show something is unacceptable.

“This is just the start of his journey and we’re just taking it one day at a time.”

Jo had no idea Rafa was deaf when she first acquired him from a local breeder in June 2022.

But after discovering his hearing loss, Jo and her family wanted to continue caring for Rafa.

Jo looked up learning sign language for dogs and says “it opened up a whole new world.”

The pooch has learned nine different signs including sit, stand, look at me, turn around, give paw, lay down, come, stay and safe - where he will walk under Jo's legs, turn around and stay there

The pooch has learned nine different signs including sit, stand, look at me, turn around, give paw, lay down, come, stay and safe - where he will walk under Jo's legs, turn around and stay there

The pooch has learned nine different signs including sit, stand, look at me, turn around, give paw, lay down, come, stay and safe – where he will walk under Jo’s legs, turn around and stay there

The adorable pooch can now also pick up a toy from the floor if Jo waves

The adorable pooch can now also pick up a toy from the floor if Jo waves “pick up”

Within a day of getting him, Jo’s family realized the pup was more motivated by toys and socks than treats and so used them as a reward during training.

“He’s a typical pup but without a conscience,” she said.

Rafa also won first prize in a junior handler competition at an inclusive local dog show at just five months old.

She said: “He comes from a good line of show dogs. This shows how smart the breed is, it behaves better outdoors than at home.

Rafa has just started therapy dog ​​training to see if he can stay calm around things like wheelchairs and canes.

Jo hopes he will become a therapy dog ​​and wants him to be able to cope and navigate different environments.

Jo hopes he will become a therapy dog ​​and wants him to be able to cope and navigate different environments (pictured with Rafa as a puppy)

Jo hopes he will become a therapy dog ​​and wants him to be able to cope and navigate different environments (pictured with Rafa as a puppy)

Rafa also won first prize in a junior handler competition at an inclusive local dog show at just five months old

Rafa also won first prize in a junior handler competition at an inclusive local dog show at just five months old

“He could potentially become one of the first deaf therapy dogs,” she said.

Jo – who has two children aged five and ten – said Rafa “has been a great upbringing for the whole family”.

“This is just the start of his journey and we’re just taking it one day at a time,” she said.

“Most people wouldn’t have bothered. Our first thoughts were that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to train a dog that can’t hear.

“We thought it would definitely be impossible to drop your lead on a walk. Education and training proved all our fears wrong.

“We were amazed at how often he looks at us, checks in with us, and trots beside or behind us.

“If we are walking as a family, he tries to make sure we are all present and in his line of sight, especially when walking down the road, and often doesn’t move until the children are in front of him so so he can keep an eye on them.’

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