A student at the University of Greenwich is inviting dog owners to become part of a unique study, which could improve the lives of hearing impaired dogs.
Reshay Hull, who is also deaf, is investigating whether there is a behavioural difference in deaf dogs when exposed to an improved sensory toy design, as part of her Animal Behavioural Science and Welfare degree.
“The inspiration for this investigation is due to my own disability in that I am profoundly deaf myself and would like to help and improve the welfare of deaf dogs in the future”, says Reshay. “I will be designing my own adaptive toy for deaf dogs – ensuring health and safety are met in terms of materials used. Then I shall test the adapted toy with the individual subject dogs, videoing them to show their response as part of my additional evidence.”
The new project follows on from her successful Second Year Diploma Investigation when she researched enrichment toys for blind dogs. Reshay met with owner Rosemary and her blind dog Maude in 2013. She adapted an existing toy – a rubber ball that had a hole large enough to place a treat inside – and attached the cord from a retractable lead. A bell sounds whenever the toy is thrown.
“The sensory toy that I created for this blind dog was very successful. She was extra playful, very responsive and it helped to increase the bond between the owner and the blind dog. Plus the owner said that the sensory toy helped her to train and the adapted toy is still the only thing [Maude] played with.”
She now needs at least 15 dogs with a severe to profound hearing impairment to help with her next investigation. Dogs will be observed to identify behaviours they do not display due to their disability. Using this research, Reshay plans to make a new sensory toy for deaf dogs and test with volunteers.
For the dogs, there’s a lot of toy testing involved and if you think your dog may be suitable then Reshay wants to hear from you. Please contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is based in southeast London and is able to travel within an hour or so to visit you and your dog or, if you prefer, an alternative location.