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Babe Could Never: Deaf Sheepdog Learns Sign Language, Returns To Work

An old dog learning tricks? Maybe not. An old dog learning sign language? Apparently so.

A couple of years ago, collie Peggy, 10, found herself unable to continue doing the job she excelled at—herding sheep. Peggy had lost her hearing and was no longer able to communicate with her owner, who subsequently gave her to a local animal shelter.

RSPCA

Flash-forward a couple of years to Christmastime, and Peggy was still at the shelter and the shelter was reaching its maximum capacity. Animal welfare manager Chloe Shorten decided to take a chance on Peggy and took her home, where she has two other working sheepdogs. 

It quickly became obvious to the Shorten family that despite losing her hearing, Peggy’s enthusiasm for sheepherding hadn’t wavered one bit. The pooch wasn’t interested in woolgathering, so they knew they had to come up with a different solution for the doggo.

“We knew Peggy wanted to be working, so we started the long process of teaching her how to herd and work with a shepherd without relying on voice commands. We started by teaching her to look at us for hand signals.”

Chloe Shorten via BBC

RSPCA

Peggy started training with a professional sheepdog trainer, and through the combination of positive reinforcement and repetition, she learned to respond to hang signals and body language. No longer was communication a barrier! 

RSPCA

Chloe Shorten says that the most important lesson that Peggy learned was to trust again, saying, “[It took time to] learn that we love her, and understand our praise.”

While Peggy is semi-retired, she will occasionally head out with the flock and will be content with the reassurance of the signal of a thumbs up, which translates to “good job.”

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Written by Abigale Racine