Many of us have a dog that is deaf or may go deaf in their lifetime as they get older. A common belief is that you can’t train a deaf dog…after all, he can’t hear you right? But I knew a trainer whose main demo dog was a deaf white boxer.
Training a Hearing-impaired Dog
- Choose hand signals. Before you begin, make sure you know which hand signals you want to use for each behavior. Switching it up or not having a solid, consistent signal will confuse your dog.
- Talk to you dog. Yup, you heard me. Even though your dog can’t talk, Wendy Clarence, contributing write for the Furever Network, says she always talks to her deaf dog.
“I also believe that dogs may be able to read our facial expressions and they can definitely read our body language when we talk with the signs,” Clarence explains.
Which brings us to our next tip:
- Always face your dog while training so he can see your movements and facial expressions.
- Be sure to use petting, treats, and toys as praise, since your dog can’t hear words.
Special Notes On Come and Leave It
There are a few behaviors that will be harder for you with a deaf dog because if your dog is not facing you (i.e. running away from you) or is starting to do something wrong far away (like eat something off the ground across your yard), he may not see your signals to stop what he is doing and/or come.
So, here are a few tips for avoiding these types of situations. Remember, it’s about your dog’s safety at this point! He could get run over, eat something poisonous, get lost, etc.
Keep your dog on a leash or long line so he has freedom, but you can get his attention by lightly tugging on the lead if necessary.
Read this next one CAREFULLY: use a vibration only (no PAIN) collar to teach your dog POSITIVELY that the vibration is a signal to come. It would be the same as teaching your dog to come to a whistle. This will not work on all dogs, as some may not get used to the feel of the vibration, even with positive reinforcement. If you have ever used a correction collar on them, then it probably won’t work as they have already have negative association with that type of collar.
Attach a remote controlled light to your dog collar. Again, teach them that the light means come or leave it. That way, you have a way to get their attention from a distance. Make sure the light is situated so it can’t shine directly into the dog’s eyes and that it is a soft light.
You could also teach your dog that the light or vibration means “look at me” so you can give him any behavior cue once he is turned towards you.
About the Author
Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of, A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.