Page last updated at 14:05 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Sign language taught to deaf dog

Zoe the deaf Dalmatian: Pic RSPCA
Zoe is gaining confidence as she masters more sign commands

A deaf dog has been taught sign language by an animal charity in order to help find her a new home.

Zoe, an 18-month-old Dalmatian, is being cared for at the RSPCA's Little Valley Animal Shelter in Exeter.

Staff at the shelter were worried Zoe, who is almost completely deaf, might be overlooked by prospective adopters.

But they say she has taken to the new routine "like a duck to water" and has already learned seven sign commands, including "sit", "stay" and "lie down".

Gill Hodge, an animal behaviour assistant at the shelter, said: "When she came to us, Zoe was very timid and lacked confidence, and it soon became apparent she was deaf.

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

The RSPCA hopes the dog's new-found confidence will help her find a suitable home.

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