A deaf dog who turned ‘delinquent’ after being raised in a drugs den has become the star pupil at his obedience school — after being taught sign language.
But his luck changed when he was taken in by sign language enthusiast Rosie Gibbs, 30, who used Makaton – a basic form of sign language often used on children – to train him.
Now five-year-old Horus is a happy healthy pet and has memorised 56 commands including ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘pay attention’, ‘play’ and he has also been taught to open drawers.
He has even learned the signs for the names of Rosie and her family.
Not only that, but Horus has been awarded his bronze, silver and gold Kennel Club Good Citizen awards.
Rosie, who had never owned a dog before, said: “People think dead dogs are different and stupid and can’t be trained, but Horus is proof that they can.
“I had spent some time helping deaf children and had learned a little Makaton so when I got Horus I began to use it.
“Horus now knows 50 signs, I’ve actually run out of things to attach signs to.
“He’s is a fantastic dog, he’s friendly and playful. It’s such a shame he had a sad start.
“A lot of people I have spoken to said they feel weird signing to a dog, but I don’t see what the difference is between that and shouting commands.”
Rosie, a osteopath who lives near Lockerbie, Scotland, adopted Horus three years ago from the charity Dogs Trust.
Horus had been rescued by the trust at six weeks old and first rehomed at 10 weeks old.
But less than a year later the boisterous pup was returned to the charity because of his misbehaviour.
Poor Horus then spent the next 18 months locked up in kennels, waiting for a new home.
Rosie took him home and immediately began to teach him basic commands and within two weeks he had mastered almost 15.
Rosie added: “Nobody would take him because of his behaviour. He used to get aggressive around dogs and people, but once we got past that and began to communicate he turned out to be a brilliant pet.
“He picked up signing really quickly and had learned between 10 and 15 signs in the first two weeks.
“A deaf dog can’t obviously hear you so you can’t call them back so I had to train him to ‘check in’ with me every 20 seconds.
“I used food at first and every few seconds I would feed it to him so he got into the habit of checking to see if I had any.
“Once he had mastered that it was easy.”
Rosie, who helps run the Deaf Dog Network, an online support group for owners of deaf dogs, has urged pet lovers to take on deaf dogs.
She said: “Deaf dogs make great pets. Horus can’t hear but his other senses are stronger to compensate.
“He can tell me who is at the other side of my garden fence by their smell and the shape of their shadow.
“If I walk into a room he notices the light change and turns around to see who it is.
“He had a sad start but he’s over that now and he’s perfectly happy.
“I’m so proud of him and his Kennel Club awards. He loved doing it and it is something I will always remember.
“I would recommend getting a deaf dog to anyone. He’s a member of the family.”