As humans experience life mostly through vision and sound, dogs do primarily through smell and vision, so being deaf is not really too much of a challenge for them. In fact, having a dog that cannot hear sounds is more stressful to the owner than the dog.
As it can be hard enough to train a normal dog, one that is deaf poses special challenges. Patience and commitment are crucial. You will have to live a life that focuses around learning to communicate with your dog.
It has been said that people don’t choose their dogs as much as dogs choose their owners. Dogs enter people’s lives to teach them lessons that they need to learn. A deaf dog can teach its owner patience and how to find ways to communicate with others who are different or have disabilities.
Teaching a deaf dog new tricks
A deaf dog will rely on his eyesight to communicate with you, so you must learn to teach hand commands instead of verbal commands. This is why it is important to teach your dog sign language, just like you would teach a deaf person. You can use American Sign Language, or you can create your own hand signals. Whichever method you choose, be consistent.
The training process will not only increase your dog’s vocabulary, but yours as well. Believe it or not, a dog has the capacity to learn signs very quickly. At one year old, a dog may already know 20 signs, while a 5-year-old may know 50 signs.
Avoid teaching your dog too much, too soon. Focus on the most important signs first. These include sit, stay, down, come, stop and no. When teaching your dog these signs, make sure your dog can see your face and hands. When your dog is successful, reward him with a treat. The training process for a deaf dog should be the same as with a hearing dog. Train your dog regularly, but limit sessions to 15 minutes at a time. Once your dog understands these signs, you can gradually add new words, such as ball, car, walk, toy and treat.
Rewarding a deaf dog
A deaf dog cannot hear the sound of his owner’s voice, which means that using treats is the preferred way to reward a dog for a job well done. At first, food rewards should be used often. Dog jerky and biscuits, chews and carrots are good rewards to use. As your dog gets older, you may want to limit the food rewards and focus more on affection and love, such as a belly rub or a clap of your hands, which means “good job” in sign language. Be sure to smile when doing this to show your dog that you are pleased.
The importance of a leash
If your dog is outside, he should be in a fenced area. If there is no area, your dog should be trained to be led on a leash well. Make sure he wears a leash at all times. Deaf dogs cannot hear cars or other dangers and must always be at your side.
Many dog owners have a hard time understanding this and feel that their dog should have their freedom. Unfortunately, it is absolutely necessary that deaf dogs be supervised on a leash outdoors. It is common for dogs to run after cars or other animals and end up injured in the process.
When the dog cannot be in a house or enclosed area, there are retractable leashes available that can extend to 30 or even 50 feet. These allow your dog to play with other dogs at parks while still allowing control of your dog.
A common problem with deaf dogs is that it is hard to get their attention. You cannot simply yell their name unlike hearing dogs. It may be hard to get their attention during the day, but at night, it is a bit easier. You can train a dog to come to you by turning a porch night on and off. It can be hard to get the attention of a preoccupied deaf dog. With a barking dog, sometimes a simple touch can let your dog know to quit the action.
Because it can hard to keep track of a deaf dog, his collar should ideally have a bell on it so you can hear him. You may also want to note on his ID tag that he is deaf, in case he runs off.
It can be hard to approach and touch a deaf dog because you can easily startle him. First, try waving at him. You can try stomping your feet and seeing if the dog feels the vibrations. You can throw a ball, toy or other small object near him to see if he responds. You may try turning a light switch on and off to get his attention. Whatever you do, avoid approaching him quickly from behind.
One thing about training and teaching dogs is that you cannot be lazy about it. For example, if your dog is in the garbage can or chasing the cat, you cannot simply yell his name and expect him to stop the behavior. In some cases, you may be able to use a hand command, but in most situations, you will have to physically take the dog out of the situation.