How to train a deaf dog

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

What causes hearing loss in dogs?

There are a few causes of hearing loss in dogs. One of which is acquired deafness that includes trauma to the hard portion of the temporal bone surrounding the inner ear. Loud noises like gunfire and other conditions can also cause damage to the myelin, which can lead to hearing loss.

Other factors that can cause sudden hearing loss or congenital deafness in dogs include congenital disabilities, chronic ear infections, head injuries, drug toxicity, degenerative nerve changes, old age, disease, or a ruptured eardrum.

What commands can a hearing impaired dog learn?

A deaf or hearing impaired dog can learn hand signals and basic obedience commands. Most dog trainers use a standard hand signal for each command, but you can come up with your own. Get your dogs attention, make your hand signal, and train them to perform the command as you would any other dog. You can teach your deaf dog some basic commands: sit, lie down, watch me, come, and stay.

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.

American Sign Language pocketbook

2. Keep your dog on a leash when walking

The leash, a fenced yard or stake, and lead are necessities for 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 during your training session, thump on the floor with your fist or foot or wave. Some people use a flashlight or a laser light. If your dog is outside at night and you want to call him in, turn your porch light off and on.

Vibrating collars are also good for dog training, especially for deafness and older dogs who may be hard of hearing. Vibrating collars are a safe and effective solution you can use during your training session. They can help improve communication between dog and dog owner.

A vibration collar like the Petsafe Vibration Remote Trainer is a good choice. However, keep in mind that the vibrating collar should never be used for corrections. Instead, it is just for getting your dog’s attention.

4. Take an introductory obedience class

Find a dog trainer that will take you in an introductory 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 facial expression, 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 and positive reinforcement are the best ways 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 love and enthusiasm. The sign of a good job is clapping your hands. Some people use a thumbs up or other similar hand signal.

The easiest seen visual cue 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 and success. Smile when you do it. Do it often when training dogs.

How do you discipline a deaf dog?

Deaf dogs are just as smart as hearing dogs, though they rely on different methods when it comes to dog training and discipline. When it comes to disciplining a deaf dog, you will quickly find that it requires a good amount of time, patience, and love.

A deaf dog relies more on a visual cue than a verbal cue, including body language and the facial expression of its owner. They will tune into your energy and can sense when you’re angry. Even though the dog is deaf, it still helps to talk to them. You can talk with them as you would talk to hearing dogs. They will then gauge your energy and body language.

During your deaf dog training session and any disciplinary action, stay composed, maintain eye contact,  and be consistent in the approach you take. Be gentle but firm. Do not hit your dog, use a shock collar, or yell. Instead, use a leash to correct bad behavior and remain calm and assertive.

Final thoughts

There are many training tips to share for a deaf pet, but these are probably the most basic. For specific training answers as a pet parent, 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.

Let’s talk about dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs.  Gain more canine knowledge through Acme Canine’s social media:  websiteFacebookYouTubeInstagram

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