How to train a deaf dog

Training a deaf dog requires a significant commitment and lots of patience.  Here are a few training tips to help.

1. Get an American Sign Language pocketbook.

Your deaf dog is going to surprise you. It will open up a world of words for you and your dog. They are learning signs (and facial expressions) instead of words.

It would be best to concentrate on the first word signs: sit, down, stay, come, no and stop. When your dog understands these words, begin adding a new one occasionally…car, walk, etc. The first six are enough to start.

2. Keep your dog on a leash when walking.

The leash, a fenced yard or stake, and lead are necessities with the deaf dog. Buy a dog tag stating, “(dog’s name) is deaf. Please hold and call (your name/phone)“. Put a bell on your dog. Hunting dog bells are good, but if you think they are too bulky, use one of those loud Christmas bells women wear as necklaces during the holidays. This allows you to hear your dog when he is on the move.

3. Use vibration or light to get your deaf dog’s attention.

To get your dog’s attention, thump on the floor with your fist or foot or wave. Some people use a flashlight or a laser light (Radio Shack). If your dog is outside at night and you want to call him in, turn your porch light off and on.

4. Take a basic obedience class.

Find a trainer that will take you in a basic obedience class. Use standard obedience signs and American Sign Language (a pocket-sized book version is inexpensive and invaluable).  As you speak the commands, your dog will watch your face, and you will have more expression if you are speaking. This should get you to sit, lay, stay, and come. Give the sign and put your dog in the position you want him to be. Reward with food or praise. Repeat. Training sessions should last about 15 minutes. Train a deaf dog just like a hearing dog (except for signing instead of speaking).

From there, you will be able to train and teach him as many signs as you want. Some deaf dogs that are 5 or 6 years old know up to 50 signs!  They learn so fast.

5.  Touch your deaf dog in the same place when waking them.

When waking your dog, do it by always touching him GENTLY in the same place. The shoulder is the best. Or put your hand in front of his nose and let your smell wake him. Give him a treat and lots of love every time you wake him. Startling the deaf dog out of sleep is usually the touchiest area. The treat will make waking up less traumatic, and he will take it eagerly instead of angry. Tell visitors not to touch your dog if he is sleeping, especially children.

6. Reward your deaf dog for good behavior

Food rewards are the best way to reward the deaf puppy since they cannot hear the tone of our voice. (You can taper off the food rewards as your dog grows older and reward with lots of loving and enthusiasm. The sign for a good job is clapping your hands. Some people use a thumbs up.)

The easiest seen by the dog and the easiest to learn for you for the word “good” is to clap your hands. In ASL, this means a good job, success. Smile when you do it. Do it often.

Final Thoughts

There are so many training tips to share, but these are probably the most basic. For specific training answers, post particular questions on You’ll receive more replies than you’ll know what to do with! Good Luck. Be patient and loving. Your dog will do the rest.

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