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How To Train A Deaf Dog

Training Dog

 

Part of being a responsible dog owner includes training your dog to follow basic commands and be well-behaved around others. You might opt to train your pup, or you might prefer to work with a professional dog trainer. With patience, consistency, and understanding, pup parents usually can tackle training on their own, but what if you have a special situation? For example, what if you face the challenge of training a deaf dog?

Training a deaf dog undoubtedly comes with some unique factors to consider, like using more visual cues or physical touch. But, in spite of these additional considerations, you can train a deaf dog the same commands you would teach one that hears. Plus, training your deaf dog isn’t as challenging as you might think.

Training A Deaf Dog vs. A Dog That Hears

Whether your pup was born deaf or experienced an injury or illness that led to hearing difficulties, training your dog is still critical. The first step to training your deaf dog is to familiarize yourself with some typical training techniques. Then, you can tweak the techniques to cater to your pup’s specific needs.

It’s wise to understand the differences and similarities between training dogs with hearing impairments versus dogs that hear. Knowing these similarities and differences can help you organize your training regimen.

Similarities

  • You can teach them both the same commands.
  • Patience, consistency, and staying positive are of the utmost importance no matter what dog you plan to train.
  • Have tasty treats on hand and lots of praise so you can reward desirable behavior.
  • Create a training schedule to set up a sense of routine with your dog. Plus, when you set aside the time to train your dog, you will approach the process ready to work. This mindset means you won’t be stressing about the other things you have to do.
  • You need to work with your pup on focusing on you. Start your training sessions when and where you have minimal distractions. Eventually, as your dog gets more consistent, you can broaden your training environment.
  • Always mark the behavior immediately when your pup performs it. In the beginning, you might “catch” your dog doing the behaviors you want them to do. As soon as they perform it, mark the behavior with the appropriate signal and reward it with a treat.

Differences 

  • You’ll need to focus more on hand signals and visual cues since verbal cues won’t work.
  • If you are used to using a clicker with your previous pups, you can still use it (yep, you read that right). But it won’t be the sound of the clicker that your dog responds to. Your dog will respond to the visual cue of seeing the clicker when they perform a command. You’ll incorporate some different techniques like light signals, vibrations, laser pointers, and touch (more on these later).
  • It’s essential to practice something called “startle resistance.” Since your dog can’t hear, you might startle them when you approach them from behind. It’s a good idea to work on desensitizing your pup to this, so they don’t end up biting you or someone else.

Desensitizing Your Dog To Startling Moments

You can help your dog get used to unexpected or sudden touches through some simple training practices. Start working on this when your pup is awake and use gentle touches initially.

Touch your dog gently, always in the same spot, and immediately offer a treat. The treat provides your pup with a tasty reward and shows them that there is no reason to be startled or upset. 

Then, move out of your dog’s line of vision, and repeat the above steps. After your dog gets used to your touch, you can practice when your pup is asleep. 

If your dog is sleeping, place your hand in front of their nose instead of touching them first. Doing this lets your dog be aware of your presence through your scent. When they wake up, reward them with a treat. Then, proceed to use the gentle touch, followed by another treat. You can eventually adjust your touch to one that is a bit firmer.

Training a dog

What Commands Can A Deaf Dog Learn?

Your deaf dog can learn all of the commands that a hearing dog can learn. It’s not the commands that need to change, it’s simply the way you teach them. So, you can teach your dog basic commands, like sit, stay, come, lie down, and heel. You can also teach your pup fun tricks like shake, speak, or roll over. 

The first command you need to teach your deaf dog is to focus on you. Since your pup needs to look at you to see your signals, you need their undivided attention. Use a non-verbal signal to gain your dog’s attention. 

The signal could be a gentle touch, a flashing light, or something similar. You can help them associate this signal with the focus command by performing it as soon as they look at you. Then, follow with a tasty treat. This immediate response and reward help mark the behavior.

Using Hand Signals For Training A Deaf Dog

Hand signals are beneficial anytime you train a dog, in spite of their hearing abilities. Using hand signals is essential in training because your dog will often respond to what you do more than what you say. 

Plus, as your dog gets older, degenerative hearing issues are a strong possibility. If you’ve already trained them with hand signals, you won’t miss a beat when it comes to giving your dog commands. 

However, hand signals become exceedingly necessary for a deaf dog. The good news is, there aren’t any set hand signals that you must use for particular commands. Although many basic commands have specific signals, you can use any gesture you like. 

Some people use American sign language, while others make up their own gestures. However, there are some critical factors to keep in mind when choosing your hand signals.

  • Make sure that your hand signals for different commands don’t resemble each other. If the signals are too similar, it can confuse your dog.
  • Consistency is important. Don’t change up your hand signals for the same command. Once you teach your dog a signal, keep it the same throughout your training.
  • Start off teaching your hand signal with a treat in hand to help lure your pup into the behavior. Eventually, you can perform the signal without using the treat.
  • Even if your dog can’t hear you, still speak the commands. When you verbalize while giving the gestures, it can help them look and feel more natural.

Items That Can Help You Train A Deaf Dog

Here is a list of items that can come in handy when training your dog. You can use them for any dog, but they are especially useful for training deaf dogs.

  • Laser pointer (Avoid shining it into your dog’s eyes. Plus, if your dog is more interested in chasing the laser, opt-out of using this as a training tool.)
  • Vibrations (Create vibrations by stomping on the floor.)
  • Vibrating collar (Only use if your dog doesn’t seem bothered by the vibration. Note: This is not the same as a shock collar. We do not recommend using shock collars.)
  • Flashlight (Handy for training at night or giving your pup commands in the dark.)

In addition to these items, you also need usual training tools like treats for rewarding behavior and a leash. Although it’s always a good rule of thumb to keep your pup on a leash in public, it’s imperative with a deaf dog. Ultimately, you always want to ensure your dog is safe and happy.

When To Call A Professional Trainer

Training your dog is a great way to build your bond and strengthen your relationship. However, sometimes people have a difficult time making it work. You might discover you have scheduling issues or cannot maintain the right demeanor for training.

If you find yourself getting frustrated easily or struggling with the process, it might be best to find a professional trainer for your dog. You don’t want to turn your dog off to the idea of training. 

Try to find a trainer that will work with you and your dog, so you can still be a part of the process. After all, you need to learn the hand signals and commands too. You can find trainers by asking your vet for recommendations, checking out the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), or looking on sites like Bark.com.


For more valuable insights about working with your pets, check out the rest of our blog. You’ll find all sorts of helpful tidbits to help you up your pet-parenting game. Plus, you can find ideas for toys and other items that can keep your pet engaged and happy.

 

 

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