It is normal to believe that training and owning a deaf or hearing-impaired dog is much more of a challenge. However, the commitment and effort required in deaf dog training is no more than what would be required in training any other dog – all you need to do is shift your approach and technique a bit. Whether your pup lost his hearing as a result of an ailment or age, or whether he has been deaf since birth, this blog will provide you with a wealth of essential information regarding training a deaf dog.
Training a Deaf Dog:
Since your dog, of course, will be unable to hear you, you will need to depend on your body language and other non-verbal cues to communicate. However, your dog will only be able to notice these signals if they are even looking towards you. Hence, the very first deaf dog training step involves teaching your pet how to focus. You can start by offering your dog a treat or any other reward each time that he voluntarily turns to you. This will help your dog understand that it is in his best interest to look at you as much as possible. In addition, you can play games that will encourage your dog to find you and stay close to you (such as hide-and-seek).
You should also try to come up with a signal that prompts your dog to turn towards you. Since you cannot use verbal cues such as ‘Watch Me’, you will need to find something that your dog will be able to sense. For instance, you can use a blink of a flashlight or even just a gentle touch. Once again, make sure to couple the signal with some kind of reward. Whenever you find your dog looking towards you, use your chosen signal and then follow it up with a treat. This will condition your dog to turn towards you as soon as you give the signal. Once this is achieved, you will have found a way to get your dog’s attention whenever you need to.
Below are a few options that you can consider for your attention signal:
If you go for a gentle touch, make sure that the touch is always in the same spot (the shoulder, for instance). It is vital that your touch is gentle, so that your dog does not end up being startled.
The dog will be able to notice a flashlight wink. However, lights tend to be most effective during the dark.
Compared to a flashlight, a laser pointer is more effective during the daytime. However, make sure that you are not pointing the laser directly in the dog’s eyes. It is also important to remember that some dogs might be prompted to start chasing this light.
You can either stomp on your floor, or use fists for pounding on it. Either kind of vibration can prove effective in attracting your dog’s attention.
AVOID using shock collars, or using the shock option on multipurpose collars. Remember that the intention is to communicate with your dog, and not to punish him. In addition, certain dogs find vibrations rather aversive and, therefore, are quite sensitive to it. If you find that the vibrations are stressing your pet out, you should consider a different signal.
As far as obedience signals go, hand signals will work best in letting a deaf dog know what you expect of them. You can use separate signals for each behavior. While some dog owners tend to use conventional obedience language, others use the US Sign Language. If you want to come up with signs or gestures of your own, you can do that as well. The important thing is to make sure that your gestures are consistent, so that your dog can link a particular signal to a particular behavior. Also, you must remember to make each signal different to the rest. Although there are few animals that are as good as dogs at reading body language, excessively similar signals can end up confusing them.
The luring-and-rewarding training approach is one of the best methods for teaching hand signals to any deaf dog. The lure movement naturally turns into a signal upon fading the lure. For instance, if your intention is to make your dog sit, you can lift a treat over the dog’s head and cause them to take a sitting position. You can then use this hand position as a signal to make your dog sit any time you want to.
Since dogs, in general, tend to focus more on people’s actions than on their words, hand signals can prove to be extremely effective communication tools. In addition, dogs often lose their hearing with age and, if they are already aware of hand signals, this transition will be far less tough on both you and your dog.
Even though floor vibrations might alert a deaf dog to its owner’s arrival, the dog will not be able to hear anything. This means that a sudden touch or appearance might startle them. This possibility is a greater concern for dogs that are turning deaf as a result of age, as they have now lost the many hearing cues that they previously depended upon. In order to keep your dog from getting startled and nipping you, you need to make them understand that getting startled is not a bad thing.
During the hours that the dog is awake, you can make gentle touches and immediately follow those touches with a major reward. Next, repeat this process – only this time, make sure that your dog is unable to see you. Once your dog starts welcoming your touch, you can perform this exercise while he is asleep: start by placing your hand right in front of the dog’s nose, so that he can wake up to your smell. Offer a valued reward as soon as the dog wakes up. Once your dog is comfortable with gentle touches, you can move on to more firm ones.
To sum up, a deaf dog is no less smart or intelligent than any other dog. By using the above techniques and methods, you can make sure that your hearing-impaired pup is trained according to your precise needs.
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