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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 14:17 GMT
Deaf collie hopes for thumbs up
Blue gets training from Gill Hodge
Taking the lead: Blue with trainer Gill Hodge
A Devon animal centre has taught a rescue dog to recognise sign language in a bid to find him a new owner.

Blue, an eight-month old blue merle collie, is deaf and is being cared for at the RSPCA's Little Valley Animal Shelter in Blackhat Lane, Exeter.

Blue now knows seven signed signals and commands - his favourite being the thumbs-up sign, meaning "good boy".

Staff said he was often overlooked by prospective adopters so they taught him his own special form of sign language.

His previous owners handed him over to the charity because they were expecting a baby and felt they could not devote enough time to him.

He is now a happier and more obedient dog, said RSPCA staff, who hope to find him a new home.

Obedient dog

Animal Behavioural Assistant Gill Hodge said: "Blue's original owners were aware of his deafness, but they had not been able to devote much time to his training.

"His deafness meant we could not train him with voice commands in the usual way, so we came up with the idea of sign language.

"Dogs naturally use their own form of sign or body language, such as tail wagging when they are happy, raising their hackles when they feel threatened - and they do this far more than they use their voices," she added.

The charity said he needed an active and experienced owner who was willing to continue his sign language and other training and devote a lot of time to him, preferably in a home with another dog.

Blue is said to be good with cats and could be rehomed with calm children.

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