Training a Deaf Puppy Can Be Challenging, But Not Impossible

By Spike, dog blogger,

Hi, all! This is Spike and I’d like to start off by saying congratulations to those of you who made the very smart decision to adopt a puppy! Now, let’s….wait, what’s that? You say your puppy is deaf and you don’t know how you’re going to train him? Oh, that’s no problem; Acme Canine can help you with that!

There are two important things that you’ll need before you even start training: a lot of patience and an abundance of time. Other than that, the training of a deaf puppy is based on the same idea as the training of a puppy that can hear. The challenging part is thinking outside the box and creating a useful way to communicate. At first, you’ll need plenty of yummy treats on hand to encourage your puppy. Although you’ll use lots of treats at first, as your puppy becomes more knowledgeable of every command, you should use less treats.

Getting Your Deaf Puppy’s Attention

Now, before you can get the puppy to even do one simple task, you need to get his attention. For canines that can hear—like me—this is as easy as calling their name. But for a deaf puppy, well, that obviously won’t work. If you stomp on the floor with your foot, the puppy can feel the vibrations in the floor and may turn his head your way. But this doesn’t always work.

I suggest using a flashlight? There are many owners who make use of this tool to get their puppy’s attention—but never shine the light in the puppy’s eyes! Simply turn the light on and off continuously until the pup looks at you to see where the beam of light is coming from; when he does be sure to give him one of those tasty treats! If you’d like, you could even use the hand sign for “good dog” and perform this sign when you give him a treat for doing something right. With practice, he’ll quickly learn that the flash of light means you want his attention.

There are other owners who like those electronic collars that vibrate.  These collars vibrate, much like the vibrations of those things humans call pagers or cell phones. Just press that button and keep pressing it until your puppy looks at you. The moment he looks at you, stop pressing the button, give him a treat and signal “good dog”. Just remember that this, too, will need practice before he understands the connection. This electronic vibrating collar can be utilized in mostly any situation, but it’s usually just for getting your deaf puppy’s attention.

Using Hand Signals and Sign Language

We aren’t verbal learners like humans are. We’re perfectly happy to learn from signals, posture and touch. Most likely, you’ll want your puppy to learn the basic commands of obedience. There are regular hand signals for every command that dog trainers use and you can always create your own. But be consistent—always stick to one signal for each command! If you change signals for the same command, your pup will only get confused. Make sure your puppy is looking at you when you give the hand signal for a certain command; then just train him like you would if you’re training a hearing dog, but without the verbal part of the command. We as dogs don’t just look at your hand signals though, we look at your entire body so be aware of your body language.

A lot of dog owners talk to their dogs for other things than just the basic commands. Laura talks to me all the time and I, being the smart dog that I am, have learned some of those words: “toy”, “walk”, “good”, “treat”, “car” and others. I, like so many other dogs, have learned to link the actions with the words. But with a deaf puppy, verbalizing words doesn’t work; but you can still communicate with your dog. Quite a few owners of deaf dogs choose to learn a few easy words in American Sign Language. This will make it easier to “speak” to your deaf puppy for completing daily activities.

Becoming Comfortable With Being Touched

It’s very important that you slowly teach your pup to become comfortable with being touched from behind. At first, this hearing impaired puppy may be startled—especially if he’s sleeping. Being startled isn’t good because it could cause the dog to react in fear by snapping or snarling. No owner wants that kind of behavior. Look at it this way, do you like it when someone comes up behind you and accidentally startles you?

Very softly, touch your puppy on his back and shoulder and then give him a treat right away. You need to practice this over and over, many times through the day. Your pup will soon figure out that when he gets touched on the back or shoulder from behind, good things are going to come his way.

Keep Your Pup Leashed

When your puppy is old enough to start going for walks, keep him on a leash. When you have a deaf dog, it’s highly essential that he be on-leash outside non-fenced in areas at all times.  With a deaf canine, you can’t just shout “Come!” but you can teach him to come using an e-collar.  Acme Canine’s trainers can show you how.

So, are you up to the challenge? Of course, you are! Just take your time, never use harsh words or physical abuse when training (or any other time) and have plenty of patience on hand. It will be difficult, but certainly not impossible. Besides, training your deaf puppy will bring you two closer together and together you’ll share an incredible lifetime bond. If you have any questions or need help, please contact Acme Canine. My friends are always happy to help in any way they can!

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