Do Hunting Dogs Go Deaf? What You Need To Know

Hunting dogs are a great help to their owners; not only are they suitable for hunting, but they are good companions too, and every hunting dog owner wants to ensure that their companion is healthy. Something that may be worrying to hunting dog owners is the hearing of their dogs, as they are running around among gunfire. So, do hunting dogs go deaf?

Hunting dogs can go deaf from the loud gunfire that they are exposed to regularly or from ear infections, or the deafness could be hereditary. There are multiple ways to prevent your hunting dog from going deaf due to gunfire and infections. For example, give your dog ear protection.

So, hunting dogs can go deaf, but what can we, as their owners, do about it? How do we check if your hunting dog is suffering from hearing loss? Is there anything that we can do to prevent it? Let us go through everything you need to know about hearing loss and your hunting dog.

Can Hunting Dogs Go Deaf?

Even though hunting dogs can be a great help to the hunter during a hunting trip, there is a very realistic and big concern about how the hunting dogs’ ears will be affected by the loud noise of the gunshots and even the whistles that are used during the hunt. 

Unfortunately, if you do not take the correct precautions, then the hunting dog can go deaf from all the loud noises that are present during a hunt. As we know, all dogs have a hearing frequency that ranges from 40 Hertz to about 60 000 hertz, which is a lot higher compared to a humans hearing of between 20 to 20 000 Hertz. 

Something that not many hunting dog owners know is that anything that is higher than 25 000 Hertz can be very traumatizing for your hunting dog. This means that any noise that is in the range of 120 to 140 decibels or higher are not safe noise levels for your hunting dog and can cause hearing loss

Most guns produce a noise that is much higher than 150 decibels, and some gun modifications such as muzzle breaks tend to increase the noise level of the gunshot by a few decibels. 

Dogs do tend to have an enate ability within their ears, which allows them to block out certain sounds and focus on another. However, the noises that occur from gunfire happens at a rapid pace. These quick sounds are too fast for the mechanisms in the hunting dogs’ ears to protect the very sensitive inner ear. This could increase the risk for your hunting dog to suffer from permanent hearing loss. 

Although one gunshot could seem like it is enough to damage the hunting dog’s hearing, the most concerning factor is the continued exposure to such loud noises. This is because the more the hunting dogs are exposed to these noises, without the proper protection, then the higher their risk for developing permanent hearing loss gets.

How To Test Your Hunting Dogs Hearing

If you are worried about if your hunting dog may have some hearing loss due to hunting or not, there are a few signs you can watch out for that may indicate if your hunting dog does have some hearing loss.

Your Hunting Dog Is Shaking Its Head More Than Usual

One of the things you should look out for is if your hunting dog is shaking its head more than usual. This could be evidence that there is something wrong with the dog’s ears. If your hunting dog does not respond to your typical commands that you give it every day, or if the dog seems confused when you give the commands, then they may be struggling to hear properly.

Your Hunting Dog Is Not Responding To Outside Stimuli Anymore

If your hunting dog used to respond to outside stimuli, for example, other dogs barking or the doorbell going off, but now your hunting dog does not seem to even notice these noises, then you may want to get their hearing checked. 

Your Hunting Dog Is Barking Excessively

Excessive barking could indicate that your hunting dog may be feeling uncomfortable or confused, and this can be due to hearing loss. A hunting dog that may have some hearing loss may paw at their ears or have some evidence of painful and itchy ears from pawing at them.

Your Hunting Dog Paws At Its Ears

The hunting dogs will paw at their ears because they know that something is wrong, and it makes them uncomfortable. Another indication that could mean some hearing loss has occurred in your hunting dog is if your dog does not notice that you are in the room with it or acknowledge you in any way until you physically touch them or they finally see you.

General Lack Of Activity

If your hunting dog seems to be lazy and sleeps a lot with a general lack of activity, and you have difficulty waking your dog up, then you may want to test their hearing to see if they have some hearing loss.

Your Hunting Dog Doesn’t Response When You Blow A Whistle

Hunting dogs tend to lose the ability to hear noises that are on the higher end of their hearing frequency first. So, you could try and test your hunting dog’s hearing by blowing a whistle; if your dog does not respond to the whistle, then try some other sounds like clicks or claps while you are facing away from your dog.

If your hunting dog does not respond or does not seem the least bit curious about the noises, then they may be suffering from some hearing loss.

Your Hunting Dog Doesn’t Response When You Call Its Name

A good and simple way to test your hunting dog’s hearing is to call its name; if the dog does not acknowledge you or looks in the wrong direction, then your dog may be suffering from hearing loss. 

If you are very concerned about the level of hearing loss your hunting dog may have suffered, then you can take your dog to the vet as they do have methods of testing the dog’s hearing. The vet will be able to tell you how much hearing your hunting dog has lost and if there is something that you could do to prevent further hearing loss.

How To Prevent Hunting Dogs From Going Deaf

Just like with humans, hunting dogs will require some ear protection when you are out hunting to help protect their hearing. There are some ways that you can help protect your hunting dog’s hearing during a hunt. 

Let us go through some of the protective gear that you can buy for your dog, as well as some hunting practices to keep your dog’s hearing loss to a minimum. After all, it is better to try and prevent hearing loss rather than try to deal with it once it has already started. 

Hearing Protection Devices For Hunting Dogs

One of the first options to help protect your hunting dog’s hearing during a hunt is to buy some form of hearing protection device for your dog’s ears. There are a few options that are on the market today that you can choose from, and they can either be in-ear protection or over-ear protection. 

Over-ear protection is a bit like the ear protection that humans would wear when shooting; they are akin to earmuffs. These ear protection devices tend to use Velcro or elastic straps that fit over the dog’s head and are used to tighten two coverings shaped like cups that encase the hunting dogs’ ears.

These straps would wrap around your hunting dog’s head and will go under your dog’s lower jaw. This type of hearing protection for your hunting dog can be problematic, though, both for you and the dog. This is because the staps of the ear protection can be difficult to secure correctly, and the ear protection can slip or come undone, which could block the hunting dog’s vision. 

However, if you do manage to secure these straps tight enough without hurting your hunting dogs so that they do not slip, then they could offer somewhat adequate protection against the gunshot noises. 

You could also choose to rather go for some in-ear protection for your hunting dog instead of outer-ear protection. You do need to be careful with in-ear protection for your hunting dogs as they have a differently shaped ear canal compared to humans, so be sure to not use any human earplugs that you have tried to DIY into dog earplugs. 

If you do this, you could cause more damage to the dog’s ear canal than the loud gunshot noise would, and this could end up affecting the dog’s hearing. You should make sure that you buy in-ear protection that has been specifically designed for your dog’s ears. 

In-ear protection for your hunting dog can have its drawbacks, too, as the earpiece could get logged in the dog’s ear. If you use the right in-ear protection products for dogs and you use them correctly, then they can be a useful tool in the fight to help prevent your hunting dog from losing its hearing.

Before you decide on any form of hearing protection for your hunting dog, you should consult your vet to ensure that you make the right choice for your dog. 

Hunting Practises To Help Protect Hunting Dogs Hearing

There are a few hunting practices that you can utilize during the hunt to help protect your hunting dog’s hearing. 

First, you can train your dog to stay behind the shooters. For example, train your waterfowl retriever to not break on the shot and to not start to creep forward when the dog sees cupped wings. 

Remember that a dog’s hearing is a lot more sensitive compared to human hearing, so you need to be careful that your hunting dog is not in a poor position relative to the gun when the gun goes off. 

Where it is possible, you should try and get as much distance between the dog and the shooters as possible. For example, you can train your hunting dog to use a dog blind and place this at a fair distance from the shooters when you are hunting waterfowl. 

When you are training with your hunting dog, try to adjust your approach to make the training quieter. If you are training with your hunting dog more than you hunt with the dog, which most hunters do, then adjusting your training to be quieter will greatly help in the prevention of hearing loss in your dog.

It is very common to use blanks while training, but you can select quieter blanks. For example, you can use 209 primers in your starter pistol rather than poppers in your 12 gauge while training. This will make the gunshot noise easier on your hunting dog’s ears.

Other Reasons Why Hunting Dogs Go Deaf

There may be some other reasons as to why your hunting dog’s hearing may be declining that have nothing to do with the loud noises from the hunt. These can be a serious threat to your dog’s health and need to be treated immediately, or they could be completely natural, and there is nothing you could do to help.

Deafness Could Be Caused By Grass Awns

One thing that you should remember to check your hunting dog for after a hunt is grass awns. These are seeds that can be collected in the dog’s fur while they run in tall grass. These seeds are sharp can dig deep into your dog’s skin and can get into your dog’s ears and cause damage to the ear canal, which could cause hearing loss. 

But again, prevention is best here, so you should take measures to make sure that your hunting dog is protected from grass awns. Some hunters will cover their dog’s heads with a net to help prevent the awns from bothering the dog’s eyes and ears.

Deafness Could Be Caused By An Ear Infection

If your hunting dog gets a bad ear infection, then the dog could suffer from hearing loss, and hunting dogs are more prone to ear infections as the dog breeds used for hunting tend to have floppy ears. These floppy ears trap moisture and dirt in the ear canal, which creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow, which can then cause the ear infection. 

To try and prevent your hunting dog from getting an ear infection, you should clean their ears after every hunt. Speak to your vet, and they will help you to find the best way to clean your dog’s ears.

Deafness Could Be Caused By A Disease

There are diseases that can cause hearing loss in your hunting dog; for example, a disease called canine distemper can cause some hearing loss in dogs. It is extremely important to get your hunting dogs vaccinated for diseases they may come into contact with, and you should take your dog to the vet as soon as they show any signs of illness.

The Deafness Could Be Because Of Old Age

Sometimes hearing loss in hunting dogs can also be caused by old age; just like with humans, dogs that are on the older side could suffer some degenerative nerve damage; there is no way for this to be prevented, unfortunately.

The Deafness Could Be Hereditary

Deafness in some hunting dogs can also be hereditary, which is called congenital deafness, and can happen when a dog inherits certain genes from the dog’s parents. The most common gene that causes congenital deafness in dogs is a gene that is pigment-related.

The Deafness Could Be Pigment-Related

Dogs that have white or mostly white coats, mottled coats (merle-coat), and dogs that have a lot of white in their fur may be more susceptible to congenital deafness, depending on the breed of the dog. This pigment-related deafness will be picked up from when the dog is a puppy and may not be the cause of deafness in older dogs. 

If you suspect that your hunting dog may be suffering from hearing loss, the best thing to do first is to consult with your vet to ensure that your dog is well looked after and treated for any underlying issues that could affect not just your dog’s hearing but their overall health too.


Hunting dogs can go deaf; however, this deafness can be caused by more than just repeatedly hearing loud gunfire. There can be many reasons your hunting dog could be going deaf; these reasons can be natural or caused by something in the dog’s environment.

You should try and protect your hunting dog’s hearing from the very beginning by buying them some protective ear equipment and making sure that your hunting practices keep your dog’s hearing safe too. Happy Hunting!


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