Fenland animal charity staff aim to sign the way home for Tilly

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Animal charity staff in Fenland are hoping that teaching a dog in its care sign language will help them find her a new permanent home.

Tilly, a white English bull terrier crossbreed, has been in the care of the RSPCA Block Fen animal centre, near Wimblington, for the past six months.

On average, dogs are rehomed through the charity in little more than a month and staff fear her deafness may be putting off potential new owners.

But they hope that helping her overcome her condition will attract new interest and have appealed for would-be owners to get in touch.

Serena Moore, an animal care assistant at the centre, said: “I have been looking after Tilly since she came to us and she really is one of the best dogs I have ever worked with.

“She adores other dogs and is really playful, in fact, her deafness doesn’t affect her demeanour in any way so we really can’t believe she’s been overlooked so many times.”

The RSPCA says white dogs are at greater risk of deafness, which may have a genetic cause.

Signs of hearing impairment may include scratching or rubbing of the ears, failing to respond to an owner until they see them or not responding to their name or noises that might otherwise provoke a reaction.

Training experts recommend the consistent use of clear and distinct signals when teaching sign language, plus rewards when the dog responds correctly.

Serena said Tilly’s ideal home would be with a family who have experience of dealing with deaf dogs or her breed.

She added: “She is very good around children but, as she is very excited by sight stimulation which can distract her from her training, we think it would be best that if she were rehomed to a family, it would be to older children, as she would benefit from a nice, calm environment.

“Tilly is house trained and very well mannered, and she loves her walk so an active home would be perfect.

Anyone interested should phone 0300 1230726.