I’ve experienced the difficulties of training a deaf dog in my own life, and I’ve witnessed it growing up in the dog training business.
Your deaf pup is just as intelligent as a hearing dog, but they communicate differently.
Since deaf dogs can’t understand verbal cues, there are specific things you can do that will help your pup learn throughout training.
How to Train a Deaf Dog
As a pet parent, here are some helpful things you can do to make the training journey a bit easier.
Teach Them How to Focus
Since your deaf dog can’t hear you, visual cues become everything. Teaching your dog various hand signals or American sign language can help you communicate and get your doggo to focus on you.
Make sure to reward them with a game or treat whenever they look in your direction and follow the cue. You can even use something like a flashlight or vibrating device to get their attention.
As one of the most faithful animals on the planet, your pup will learn that paying attention to you is worth it.
Use Hand Signs For Obedience Training and Dog’s Activities
Take those hand signals and transition them into training as well. You can use this signal as the initial means of getting their focus.
Then, you can teach other signals for different commands, such as stay, sit, come, and rollover. Sign language is very popular on various breeds, including the White German Shepherd. Be sure that your signals are clear so your dog doesn’t get confused during training.
Familiarize the Dog With Being Touched
It is so important for your pup to become familiar with being touched before training begins. While hearing dogs can hear you coming and can understand what you tell them to do, your deaf dog can’t hear you coming and won’t be able to understand you.
Gently touch your dog in the same place whenever you want to get his attention, like his shoulder, back, or rear end. You don’t want your pooch to become frightened, so it is best to slowly approach him.
Focus On ‘Watch Me’ Training
The same signal you use to get your pup to focus is the signal you want to use for ‘watch me’ training. It can be anything, like a flashlight, a laser pointer, or a vibrating device.
Since he can’t respond to words, it is important to stimulate his other senses when trying to get his attention. Reward him with a dog treat when he looks at you and makes eye contact.
Teach Them a Marker Signal for Receiving a Treat
While it might be shocking, clicker training works on a deaf dog. Even though your pup can’t hear the sound of the clicker, you can use the clicker to mark his behavior. Mark positive behaviors that you want your dog to repeat with the clicker, and reward him.
Your pup will eventually understand why he is receiving a reward and will eventually keep following through with the positive behavior.
A good marker to teach a deaf dog is a hand gesture, like a thumbs-up signal, every time he gets a treat or a reward. Use this hand gesture before offering your pooch a treat or a reward during training.
Teach Them Commands Through Luring
Luring isn’t only for hearing dogs; it works well when training a deaf dog too. Teaching your deaf puppy commands through luring is simple. When teaching your deaf dog to sit, you can lure him into the ‘sit’ position as you slowly raise a treat over his head.
This will become a hand signal of lifting your palm up, at a 90-degree angle, from your side, over your pup’s head. Luring with treats is a great way to communicate with your deaf dog, as he will learn to pay attention to your actions during training.
Teach Them Cues With Capturing
Capturing is a good way to teach your deaf dog skills they will need to use every day so your dog can live his best life. Capturing is similar to taking a picture because you capture something the moment it happens.
When training a deaf dog, you can capture his good dog behavior by marking it exactly when it occurs and immediately displaying positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement, as a form of capturing, helps your pup understand that you like it when he does exactly what you are teaching him to do.
Using hand signals to teach these moments and pairing them with reward training helps dog owners and puppies communicate better, as the deaf dog understands that good behavior is rewarded.
Give Them Startle Response Training
As previously mentioned, it is important not to startle your dog when trying to get his attention. Your dog’s lost hearing is why he can’t hear you coming, so it is essential to work on startle training before your dog learns to tricks or obedience training.
To begin startle training, you can slowly approach your pup and gently touch him on his rear end or his shoulder. He can likely feel your energy approaching him but can’t actually hear you. Once you touch your pup, greet him with happy facial expressions and ensure he is paying attention.
Approaching him with a gentle touch every time you want your hearing-impaired dog to pay attention will help him focus on you without you startling him.
Tips For Training a Deaf Dog
Ever since the domestication of dogs, dogs want to be the best companions and please their owners. As a pet parent, it is your duty to help your pup with training, making the journey fun and helpful. Here are some helpful tips for training a deaf dog.
Consider Getting a Sign Language Guide
While we use American sign language to communicate without speech, most dogs that are either born deaf or lost their hearing to chronic ear infections need to use hand signals to communicate.
A sign language guide can help your furry friend with commands like come, go, sit, and stay, and can even train him to pee outside. Your pup will understand that specific hand movements go with certain actions or behaviors during his training.
Don’t Use Shock Collars
Shock collars can be helpful for hearing dogs, but for dogs that are deaf, they can be cruel.
Shock collars can cause your deaf doggo to feel scared and stressed. He might even become aggressive during training. Using regular training collars and using positive reinforcement tends to work better.
Ensure the Dog Remains Leashed When Outside
Deaf doggos can’t hear outside dangers, like a car approaching or other animals. Keeping a leash on your deaf puppy ensures that he stays safe, allowing you to have control of any potentially dangerous situations.
Stay Mindful of Your Surroundings
As a deaf dog parent, you are your pup’s ‘ears.’ You should always be aware of your surroundings so you can anticipate any dangerous situations or distractions that can cause your pup to panic.
Keep a Watchful Eye On Your Dog
Dogs that are born deaf rely on visual cues, which is why you need to pay close attention to your pup and how he responds. You should also watch your furry friend for signs of emotional distress, which can indicate he feels uncomfortable about something nearby.
Select Your Dog’s Preferred Training Treat
Find a treat that your pup loves, and use it only during training. This treat will serve as a motivator to learn and a reward for good behavior.
Train Your Dog Two to Three Times Daily
Regular, short training sessions often are more effective than longer ones. Training your good dog multiple times a day helps reinforce desired behaviors. It also helps keep the training lessons fresh in their mind.
How Can You Prevent Startling Your Deaf Dog?
When approaching your deaf dog, you can do these things to avoid startling him:
- Use a visual cue to get the dog’s attention
- Try to get your dog to see your shadow when you approach from behind
- Lightly tap the ground or use a vibration device when you approach
- Always use calm and non-threatening body language
- Gently touch your pup on his back or shoulders
- Avoid touching your dog’s nose when waking him up
How Can You Determine if a Dog Is Deaf?
When determining if your dog is deaf, you can recognize his hearing loss in a few ways. Some ways to notice that he can’t hear you include:
- No reaction to when you call his name or when the doorbell rings
- No reaction to whistling, clapping, snapping your fingers, or talking
If your dog is deaf, consider having your pup’s vet do a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test. This test will medically detect if your pooch can’t hear and is the best way to get a definitive answer.
Is It Possible To Train My Aging Dog, Who Has Lost Hearing Due to Age-Related Factors?
You can still train an older dog that can’t hear; you just need to have a lot of patience. Focus on visual cues during training and keep training sessions short and positive.
Which Hand Signals Are Essential To Learn?
While there aren’t any specific hand signals that are designated for training a deaf pup, there are some that are helpful. Make an ‘O’ using your index finger and thumb whenever your pup is doing something positive. The ‘O’ can be used to signal all positive behavior.
The ‘watch me’ hand signal is the same as when you signal by luring with treats. Eventually, you will use it as the ‘watch me’ hand signal.
Training a deaf dog takes a little more patience, attention, and care than training a regular pup.
Training a deaf dog doesn’t have to be a struggle; with the right-hand signals, patience, and positive reinforcement, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Actions speak louder than words, so celebrate the small victories, and you’ll be well on your way to training your pup, just like any other dog!