Deaf Sheepdog Returns to Herding Her Flock After Learning ‘Sign Language’

Whoever said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has obviously never met a 10-year-old Norfolk collie named Peggy.

A working dog, Peggy was unable to continue the job she excelled at—herding sheep—when at age 8 she lost her hearing.

No longer able to communicate with her, Peggy’s owner subsequently relinquished her to the care of a local RSPCA animal shelter.

But as it was near Christmas, the shelter was at capacity. That’s when animal welfare manager Chloe Shorten stepped in. Shorten and her husband, Jason, who had two other working sheepdogs, decided to take Peggy home.

While Peggy had lost her hearing, it was obvious her enthusiasm for sheepherding hadn’t waned.

The Shortens could see Peggy wasn’t happy woolgathering, so they came up with another solution for her.

“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,” Chloe Shorten told the BBC. “We started by teaching her to look at us for hand signals.”

Using repetition and “positive reinforcement,” with the help of a sheepdog trainer, Peggy eventually learned to respond to hand signals and body language rather than traditional verbal commands.

But Chloe says the most important lesson Peggy learned had nothing to do with sheep. It had to do with trust: “[It took time to] learn that we love her, and understand our praise.”

These days, while Peggy is semi-retired, with her GPS tracker in place, she still heads out with the flock from time to time, happy in the knowledge that a “thumbs up” means she’s a good girl.

Suffice to say, the Shortens couldn’t be more pleased with Peggy’s new leash… er, lease on life.

We think it’s pretty “pawsome” ourselves.