If you have found out that your dog is deaf, it is unlikely to come as a big surprise. You may have noticed him failing to respond to verbal commands for some time. If you have discovered that your new puppy is deaf, you may be worried that she will be difficult to train, or that she will not ever be able to walk off the lead. However, you needn’t worry. There are other ways to train a deaf dog. After all, he may be missing his hearing, but the other four senses are still working fine. In fact, they’re probably working better than ever!
You can either borrow some signals from recognised sign language, or make up your own. The most important thing is that all signals should be clear and distinct from one another. You should perform the signals far from your body, with outstretched arms, so that the signals are easily visible. You should also take care with sweeping arm movements, particularly if your dog is of a nervous disposition.
Whatever signals you teach your dog, always be consistent. Make a note of the signs you use and make sure the rest of the family knows them by heart, too.
Start with pleasant event signs, such as ones for ‘dinnertime’ and ‘walkies’. Continue consistently using the signs and following them up immediately with the appropriate action. You may find that, for ‘walkies’, all you need to do is show him his leash. When you see your dog respond with excitement to the command, you will know that he understands.
You will also need to ensure you’ve got your dog’s attention before issuing a visual command. Do not ever creep up on a deaf dog, as this can alarm him. Approach him from the front and let him know you are going to issue a command by gently tapping him twice on the shoulder. Then see you have his attention and he is looking at you before issuing the command.
Even though your dog is unable to hear, it can help to accompany your visual command with a verbal signal. It is also important to do your signal with a smile on your face. Dogs are fully capable of reading facial expressions, and it is therefore more likely that your dog will learn the command quicker when it is accompanied by a verbal command.
Though it may take a little more time to train your deaf dog, it is not really all that different to training a dog that can hear. Not only this, but training any dog is an excellent bonding activity that will help you and your dog feel closer to each other.