National Deaf Pet Awareness Week – Ask the trainer – how to train a deaf dog

Question: We just discovered that our 4 month old Dalmatian puppy is deaf.  Can she still be trained? Response: Yes! A deaf dog can respond to commands, actions and walk and play like a dog that can hear.  The difference is in the training technique.  A deaf dog cannot be trained using the clicker method or voice commands, but instead must respond to physical, arm and hand commands.  Use positive reinforcement to teach your dog how to sit, lie down, come, take it leave it and a bevy of other commands.  The major issue with a deaf dog is the long distance ‘come’, as your dog will not hear you and if there is a fair distance between you and your dog getting their attention with a hand command is difficult.  Until you get your dog to focus on you, with distractions and at a distance, it is best to use a 30 foot cord training leash when in a dog park or practising off-leash commands.  Every time your dog looks at you and maintains eye contact, reward them.  It is vital to establish the human animal bond without language and only relying on your body quickly.  Use a thumbs up sign, treat, treat and treat.  A large wave of your arm, will also signal your dog to return to you.  We suggest you take a look at sheep herding dog videos, where a shepherd can control the actions and movements of the herding dog, from a distance and often silently.  It is also a good idea, when training a hearing dog, with hand commands as dogs age they lose their hearing and establishing that sign-language bond could be invaluable.

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