If you want to make sure your hard-of-hearing best friend has the best possible life and feels safe, being able to communicate effectively with them is one of the most important things you’ll need to learn to do.
No matter whether your dog was born with hearing problems or has started to go deaf with age, if you want to communicate with a deaf dog hand signals are going to be critical.
Deaf dog hand signals can be a combination of hand commands that you’d normally use in dog training, along with ones of your own you can make up using some of the signs from American Sign Language, and are motions that allow you to communicate with your deaf dog in a clear and concise manner. If you’re after some ideas for signals, the image below is from ResearchGate ☺
When you find out that you have a deaf dog, the best way to start the training process is by signing to your pooch throughout the entire day as well as talking to them still. Essentially, you will be using hand signals for everything in their daily routine. For example, when it is time to eat you will want to come up with a sign for the eating action. This sign could be a hand motion or a letter, you might want to use the letter “B” for bowl or “F” for food – the choice is yours.
The main thing to remember is that signing to your dog doesn’t require immense knowledge of sign language, you just need to create signs that you can remember easily and use to communicate with. As you go through your day, you will want to sign things repetitively, so you start to train these symbols and embed them into your dog’s routine and mind – just like most dogs will get excited when they see you pick up their leash because they know that means walk time.
Learning how to communicate with a deaf dog can be an exciting and funny experience for both you and your dog. Dogs communicate well, deaf or not, and they will often show you what signs work for them. Don’t be surprised if your dog starts to teach you what deaf dog hand signals that they want you to use! Some deaf dogs will teach you in the form of call and response. This means that they will respond to certain hand signals over others, this also shows how much they understand.
Another great and easy training signal is pointing. As you are moving and walking point in the direction you want your dog to pay attention too. This helps the dog learn direction signaling, and it can be extremely useful when calling them inside the house or showing them what direction they need to go in.
Getting a deaf dog’s attention
The first thing you’re going to need to do is learn how to get your dog’s attention. Getting a deaf dog’s attention isn’t as easy as yelling their name, since they can’t hear anything, so the first thing to do is come up with a way to get them to look at you. One of the most popular ways to do this is by touching your dog and then touching your nose, this creates a “watch me” sign. Using a sign such as “watch me” tells your dog that you have something to say and they need to pay attention. When the dog looks at you after you complete the “watch me” sign you will want to use an open hand motion acknowledging that they are paying attention. This is a visual marker that creates communication between you and your dog. Eventually you will be able to get your deaf dog’s attention by using these hand signals, and before long, it will become second nature for you and your dog.
Don’t forget that your deaf dog will still be watching your face for visual clues – in a 2018 study, scientists found that dogs are able to recognize and respond to human facial expressions. With their sense of hearing taken away, your deaf dog will be watching you even more keenly and like all dogs, will want to make their human happy. So if you’re pleased with what they’re doing, make sure you give them a smile and a pat to reinforce the behavior as well.
Every dog is unique, and they all have their own quirks – and deaf dogs are no different. With some practice, patience and perseverance, you and your dog will learn to communicate with each other and create an unbreakable lifelong bond that will bring both of you a lot of happiness.