How to Tell if a Puppy is Deaf

Call your puppy while he is asleep to check for signs of deafness.
Sleeping Labrador puppy image by Suto Norbert from

If your new puppy is running wild without even acknowledging your voice, it may be more than just typical puppy playfulness. Hearing loss and deafness occurs in dogs just as it does in humans, and evaluating hearing problems in puppies is often challenging, due to their distracted nature. You can perform a few simple tests with your puppy before visiting the vet to determine whether he has hearing problems.

Step 1

Observe the puppy carefully as he walks through the house. Dogs naturally turn their ears toward sound to determine its cause, but deaf puppies will walk without moving their ears toward sounds.

Step 2

See if the puppy jumps or shies away as you approach him. Hearing-impaired puppies are easily frightened, because they can feel your footsteps approaching but can’t hear the direction of the movement. If the puppy cries or ducks away when you approach from behind, he may be deaf.

Step 3

Move to another room and call the puppy loudly. A deaf puppy can read your body language and may come to you when you’re in the same room, but he will ignore you if you’re out of sight. Step back into the puppy’s line of sight and call him again; if the puppy moves only when he sees you, he may have a hearing issue.

Step 4

Shake your keys or squeak a loud toy and watch the puppy for reaction. Puppies are normally curious and investigate the source of strange sounds, but deaf puppies will be oblivious to noises. Try a variety of noises, and make note if there any responses such as head turning or howling, as this may indicate the puppy has a marginal amount of auditory function.

Step 5

Wait until the puppy falls asleep, and whistle or call his name. Start a few feet away from the puppy, moving in a step or two after each sound until you are making noises directly over the puppy. Puppies with normal hearing will stir or awaken in response to loud noises, but deaf puppies will sleep straight through the disturbance.

Step 6

Schedule your puppy for an auditory exam. Your veterinarian will refer you to a facility that conducts brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) testing. BAER tests measure electrical activity in the cochlea to determine the level of auditory response in the puppy’s ear. This brief, painless procedure provides a definitive answer regarding your puppy’s hearing.


  • Don't stick objects into the puppy's ear to check for deafness. A puppy's ears are sensitive, and foreign objects may cause irreversible damage.


  • Handle deaf puppies with caution. They can't hear you moving around them, and they may bite if startled.

An Item You Will Need

  • Keys, squeaky toys, other noise-making items


About the Author

Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.

Photo Credits

  • Sleeping Labrador puppy image by Suto Norbert from