Deafness is more common in dogs than you might think, with some breeds being more susceptible than others. Dalmatians, for instance, are genetically particularly inclined to be born death – with experts suggesting that as many as 30 percents of Dalmatians are deaf in one or both of their ears.
Besides, some dogs will become deaf over their lifetimes, whether due to age, an accident, a viral infection or other factors. Many owners do not realize that their puppy is deaf for several weeks, mistaking their inability to hear and follow spoken commands for a puppy’s natural boisterousness and inclination towards rebellion!
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It is entirely possible to train a deaf dog to the same (or an even higher) standard than a dog that can hear. However, it is worth noting that, unfortunately, most dog training classes, and most dog training tips that you will find online and in written literature, are geared towards training dogs that can hear.
For instance, they will assume that owners can use clickers, spoken commands and so on to train their dogs. This can be understandably frustrating for owners of deaf dogs. To redress this balance, we here provide you with some handy tips on how to train a deaf dog.
Note: if your dog is deaf in only one ear
Some dogs can hear perfectly fine with one ear, but for some reason, they are deaf in the other. With dogs like these, you might want to use traditional training methods that use clickers and spoken commands – but direct them towards your dog’s hearing ear.
However, it would also be valuable for learning some training tips for deaf dogs, too, as perhaps your dog will respond better to these!
How do deaf dogs communicate?
Training is all about communication: about letting your dog know what you want them to do and letting them know when they have done it well. It is crucial to building up a rapport with your dog during the training process as this rapport will then last a lifetime.
So, the first thing that you need to think about when you want to train a deaf dog is how they communicate.
Deaf dogs communicate through touch, sight, and taste (though they may respond, too, to the vibrations of your voice if you are very close to them and say ‘good dog’ in a warm tone).
So, rewards, when they do well during their training sessions, will include pats and strokes and delicious doggy treats instead of encouraging words like ‘good girl!’ And, you will give your dogs commands during training sessions using touch and hand gesture.
The importance of a leash
When a dog can hear, it is okay to let them loose to run around the fields once they have been trained. Owners do so safe in the knowledge that their dogs will be able to hear their commands to ‘come back’ (or, hear the sound of their dog whistle). Not so with deaf dogs.
This is why it is crucial to keep your deaf dog on a leash, even after they have been thoroughly trained. You can let them exercise freely by letting them loose in a fenced off back yard instead – or anywhere that you are sure they will not be able to escape.
If you want your deaf dog to have plenty of freedom, buy a longer leash so that they can play to their heart’s content – make sure that it does not get tangled up around anything as they run around!
Staying in touch
When you train a deaf dog, you will need to use touch and gesture to give them commands. Tap on their rump can indicate the command ‘sit,’ for instance, whilst a pointing finger can indicate ‘stay.’ Training them to follow these commands is easy as long as you have a little patience and perseverance.
For instance, to train your dog to sit, you will need to press down firmly on their rump at first until they sit, then reward them with a treat and a big hug if they stay in position.
Repeat the exercise to help your dog remember it, but not so often that training becomes exhausting to them (if they get bored or tired, they will not want to carry on training with you).
Eventually, your canine companion will sit in response to a light tap on their behind. And, you can start cutting the number of treats you give too (though always reward them with a big pat and stroke). Do the same sort of thing with other commands: find which gestures or touches work for commands such as ‘fetch,’ ‘stay’ and so on.
Getting your dog used to touches
Not all dogs are used to being touched, and so it is a good idea to get your deaf dog accustomed to being touched unexpectedly. If a dog cannot hear you coming up behind them, they may be startled when you tap them on the behind to ask them to sit, for example.
So, make sure that touching is done frequently and without unduly startling your dog. It can help if they see your hand approaching them to touch them, for example, as then they know they are about to be touched.
And, finally, always be prepared to go the extra mile
Remember, you cannot sit in the armchair and tell a deaf dog to ‘stop barking‘ or ‘stop stealing the cat’s food’: you will need to go up to your dog physically and use gesture, touch and so on to let it know what you want it to do.
So, with a deaf dog, you must always be prepared to go the extra mile, to stay closer to your dog at all times and to adjust your training program to suit their needs.
The joys of owning a deaf dog
Deaf dogs are not broken, and they are not ‘worse’ dogs to own than other types of dog. Your deaf dog is sure to be a wonderful friend for life and a brilliant addition to the household.
Why not get them some extra toys that appeal to their senses of sight or smell, such as one of those video games that are specially designed for deaf dogs to play with, for instance?
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