A ‘joy of life’ deaf dog learns sign language at an RSPCA animal center near Swansea.
The talented Senior Staffie is a “wonderful example of how resilient animals can be” and “proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.”
Eight-year-old Rocco can read hand signals and body language, and understands basic commands like “sit,” “down,” and “stay,” despite being completely deaf.
The “extremely friendly and lovable” dog is looking for a special new home with a safe garden and lots of company after the death of its previous owner.
Staffordshire bull terrier Rocco arrived at the charity’s Llys Nini Animal Center in Penllergaer for the first time in February 2020 after being brought in by an RSPCA inspector over concerns about his welfare.
The friendly, food-loving Staffie was underweight at the time and believed to be partially deaf. However, he soon got much better and was adopted.
Kennel team leader Sally Humphries said: “His new owners were really nice and Rocco accepted them straight away.
“I remember laughing that when I dropped him off he wouldn’t come and say goodbye to me; he stayed by her side as if he had known her all his life.”
Unfortunately, Rocco found himself back with Llys Nini in July last year after one of his owners sadly passed away and the other had serious health problems.
“We were incredibly sad when we found out what had happened and poor Rocco was then put back into our care,” Sally continued.
“He’s now completely deaf due to an ear infection, so we’ve spent the last few months teaching him a special sign language that he really likes.
“He reads our hand signals and body language to say what we’re asking for. For example, “thumbs up” means “good boy.”
“Most dogs are more attuned to our body language than our constant chatter, so it’s not that difficult for a deaf dog to learn; It’s all about consistency and making sure you choose a simple sign for any behavior you want to teach so that it’s as clear as possible for them to understand.”
Rocco also understands basic commands such as “sit”, “down” and “stay” and is constantly learning new things.
The staff ensure his training takes place in a tranquil environment free of distractions and that sessions are kept short and fun, with plenty of tasty treats as rewards.
“Rocco is a wonderful example of how resilient animals can be and proof that you can definitely teach an old dog new tricks,” said Sally.
“It’s my first time training a deaf dog and I still speak to Rocco when I sign – even though he can’t understand a word!
“We all think the world of him and want nothing more than to find him a nice home with people who are willing to continue his education and where he will feel safe and secure for the rest of his life.”
Rocco is now looking for a new home and “will make an excellent companion” for someone who is either retired or working from home.
Described as an “extremely friendly, lovable dog,” his deafness doesn’t affect his demeanor in any way.
Despite being an older boy, he loves going for walks and enjoys new adventures where he can snoop around to his heart’s content.
Staff say he’s always on the go and loves company and food.
He could potentially live with children as young as seven and a secure yard is a must.
To learn more about Rocco, visit the center’s website.