Training a Deaf Dog

Dogs can usually learn hand signals as quickly as a hearing dog can learn verbal commands.

Finding out that the adorable dog or puppy you have just adopted is deaf can be upsetting, and some might actually consider surrendering the dog, if only because they have no idea how to go about training their pet. Don’t despair! While it may seem challenging, remember that deaf dogs are just as smart as hearing dogs. Additionally, there are many resources that can help, such as specialized trainers, veterinarians, or even learning American Sign Language to help train your dog. Interestingly, deaf people also tend to adopt deaf dogs, so finding help through those who are experienced in being deaf and training a deaf animal is invaluable.

Deaf dogs are just like hearing dogs: they like to sniff around and wander. You will need to take care that your pet is safe, while also allowing your dog some independence. It is important to keep your dog on a leash outside, when not in a fenced yard. Techniques like associating closeness to you with a positive reward like yummy dog treats, and using vibration collars for calling your dog in the back yard or other areas when he is off the leash can be used.

It is also important to keep your dog safe around hearing dogs, since they don’t understand or tolerate deafness the way humans do. If a dog isn’t aware that another dog wants to play, the action of ignoring that dog could lead to attacks, peer shunning, or any number of problems. You can learn techniques to use in situations where other dogs are present to alert your dog that another dog is approaching.

There are a number of training tools owners can use to effectively train a deaf dog, such as sign language books, flashlights or vibrating dog collars. Dogs are very focused on visual input, making them good at learning hand signals or sign language.  In fact, dogs can usually learn hand signals as quickly as a hearing dog can learn verbal commands. Since dogs have a keen sense of smell, a favorite treat can be used to get your dog’s attention or to reward him for good behavior.  Dogs are very perceptive and are quick to pick up hand signs and even facial expressions.

Training any dog, deaf or not, takes time, patience and commitment. Many people find that deaf dogs are even more focused and easier to train.  Famous dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse once said, “I can train any dog in five minutes. It’s training the owner that takes longer.” With a deaf dog, training is even more imperative for the safety of your dog. If you are unsure of your dog-training ability, it’s a great idea hire a professional to help you train your dog.  Deaf dogs can make wonderful and rewarding pets if you just take the time to communicate in a way they understand.

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  1. I have often thought about a deaf dog, simply because I know BSL (British Sign Language). I really enjoyed the quote from Barbara Woodhouse, she was some lady!


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