An elderly sheepdog who went deaf can round up flocks again after a shepherd taught her sign language. 

Border collie Peggy was handed over to the RSPCA after her lack of hearing meant she could no longer work on a farm. 

Animal welfare manager Chloe Shorten and her husband Jason, who works as a shepherd, adopted the eight-year-old collie in December 2018, vowing to get Peggy “back to the job she loved". 

Peggy rounding up the sheep in Norfolk

Credit: James Linsell-Clark/SWNS

Sheepdogs are traditionally trained to obey whistles or voice commands with short, simple instructions such as ‘Away’, ‘Come-by’, and ‘Steady’.

But the couple from Norfolk have now trained Peggy to understand commands with hand signals, body language and “positive and repetitive” reinforcement.

The eager sheepdog has learned to recognise gestures such as a thumbs-up – meaning ‘good girl’ – and a flat, outstretched palm indicating for her to stop.

To ask Peggy to slow down, Mrs Shorten makes a waving gesture as if slowing down a car.

Peggy has even been fitted with a GPS tracker as she runs around so enthusiastically and cannot hear her owners calling her back

Credit: James Linsell-Clark/SWNS

The pair also sometimes point in a certain direction to mark where they want Peggy to go and will pat their knees to summon her back to them.

Mrs Shorten, who works for the RSPCA, said: ”We completely fell in love with Peggy almost immediately, and it soon became clear that she wouldn’t be going anywhere.

"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.”

It is not clear why the veteran sheepdog became deaf, as veterinarian checks have revealed no obvious lumps or inflections in her ears, she added. 

The couple trained Peggy with the help of a sheepdog trainer and their other two working sheepdogs, Sid and Nora. 

'She's no spring chicken and is generally retired' says Peggy's owner

Credit: James Linsell-Clark//SWNS

Although the collie is "generally retired" she still goes out to work from time to time with Mrs Shorten’s husband. 

When it comes time to play, Peggy has to wear a GPS tracker as she runs around so enthusiastically and cannot hear her owners calling her back.

Mrs Shorten added: "It can be difficult with a deaf dog, because you have to wave at them to get their attention, and sometimes she doesn’t realise straight away.

“She’s no spring chicken, and is generally retired – but she loves going out to work with us and running around in the fields, helping out."

The Kennel Club, the UK’s largest dog charity, said: “Collies are known to be very intelligent, responsive and versatile, so we aren’t surprised that clever Peggy was able to adapt her fantastic skills. 

“This story shows just how strong bonds can be between a dog and its owner, and how clever and versatile man’s best friend really is.”