Whether you’ve just adopted a deaf puppy, rescued an older dog who’s hard of hearing or have a long-standing canine companion who is experiencing hearing loss, you’re going to need to train – or re-train – them in order to make your life (and theirs) easier.
When you first start looking at how to train a deaf dog, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the thought of how to make it happen. How can you teach them if they can’t hear your commands?
Well, with the help of some simple, but super smart, products and some easy-to-understand hand signals, training your deaf dog doesn’t have to be as challenging as you might think.
Let’s get started!
How to get a deaf dog’s attention
One of the first things you’re going to need to be able to do is get your dog’s attention. Remember that your dog may startle easily if they can’t hear you approaching them so try not to ‘sneak’ up on them from behind.
Try to get into their line of sight before you touch them to ensure you don’t scare them, then touch your dog to get their attention. When the dog is looking at you, touch your nose. This creates a ‘watch me’ sign that lets your dog know you want them to pay attention to you. When they’re watching you, you can start introducing other hand signals.
Deaf dog hand signals
When it comes to training a deaf dog hand signals are going to become a huge part of your life.
Obviously you can use all of the ‘normal’ hand signals that are traditionally used for training dogs when you’re training your deaf dog. But since you’re going to be needing to use hand signals for everything that happens in your dog’s daily routine, you’re going to need to come up with a lot of additional gestures.
What you might not know is that you can actually use a lot of the gestures from American Sign Language to train your deaf dog! You can use some simple ‘alphabet’ gestures (there’s a chart in our article on How to Communicate with a Deaf Dog here) and you can also add in some of the gestures for simple phrases like ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘stop’. There are some great sites online where you can find information about these gestures but the one we found that seems to be most helpful as American Sign Language University – which has a really comprehensive ‘dictionary’ of words, which all have a video demonstration of the accompanying ASL gesture. (You can find it here.)
How to teach a dog hand signals
All dogs learn best through repetition and positive reinforcement – and when teaching a deaf to understand hand signals, consistency and patience are the key.