Training a deaf puppy might seem impossible, but it’s not. Deaf dogs aren’t a whole lot different from other dogs – they love their owners, and they’ll do whatever they can to please them. If you’re willing to learn and put in the work, you might just find that each training session will be rewarding and a great way to strengthen your bond with your beloved family member.
Here are a few dog training tips for owners of pooches who are dealing with hearing loss, as well as information on living with a dog who can’t hear.
How To Train A Deaf Dog
A deaf dog won’t be able to learn in the same way as a hearing dog. It will take some extra care and effort to get them to behave the way you want. Here are a few tips on how to meet your pup’s special needs while training in the most effective way possible.
- Get your dog’s attention – You can’t use a clicker to get the attention of a deaf puppy or older dog, and you obviously can’t call their name. One thing you can do, however, is stomp on the floor. The vibrations will do the trick.
- Use a flashlight – Shine the light toward the dog, and give them a treat once they come to you. That will tell them the light is something they need to pay attention to.
- Use positive reinforcement – Every dog – whether they can hear or not – will react to treats and praise. When the dog does something correctly, giving treats and love. This will positively reinforce that good behavior. Just like with a dog who can hear, you can gradually cut back on giving treats once your pup understands what you want them to do.1
Using Sign Language To Train Your Pup
Dogs can react to hand signals just like verbal commands. A thumbs-up sign is a great way to tell your dog they’ve done something right, sort of like how a hearing dog will react to a clicker during clicker training.
But sign language can help you communicate with your dog in ways you might not have thought possible. This isn’t to suggest you should strain yourself trying to learn American Sign Language in-depth, but learning a few simple sign cues (such as “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and “come”) could help you build an even more incredible bond with your pup.2
Training a dog through using signs is similar to clicker training in a way. You’re using something to mark when a dog does something right (like good behavior). The difference is that you’ll be using a visual marker, such as a hand signal, instead of an auditory one.3
Here are a few tips to help.
- When the dog responds to your visual signal, give them a treat quickly. You could also use what’s known as a “tactile marker,” such as a touch or a gentle tug on a leash.
- Use your signal cues right before the dog does something you want them to do, and then give them their reward.
- Practice a great deal – every day, or multiple times a day if you can. The dog will eventually learn to perform a certain type of behavior depending on the signal cue you provide.4
Talk to your veterinarian to see if they can recommend any professional trainers nearby who use sign language to train deaf dogs. They should be able to show you some basic signs.
Using Technology With Deaf Dogs
If you don’t seem to be making any progress getting your hearing-impaired dog to perform certain behaviors, and additional training isn’t helping, you might want to consider turning to technology.
Pet owners of deaf dogs often use what’s known as a vibrating collar as a substitute for spoken commands. A vibration collar is a safe device that emits a gentle vibration when you press a remote control. This won’t do the training for you, but it will help get their attention. Once you make eye contact with the dog, then you can use your hand signals to get them to do what you want them to do.5
What Causes Deafness In Dogs?
There are a lot of reasons why a dog may have hearing loss. It could be a birth defect, or it could be due to an injury or an illness of some kind.
When a dog is born deaf, the puppy likely inherited the deafness trait. In some cases, deafness can be due to a virus. Older dogs sometimes lose their hearing due to a ruptured eardrum or because of an excessive buildup of earwax. Extremely loud noises, such as a gunshot, or a disease that affects the nerve cells, could also be to blame. Elderly dogs typically lose their hearing due to degeneration of the inner ear.6
Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to hearing loss than others. These include the following.
- Australian Heeler
- Boston Terrier
- Bull Terrier
- English Cocker Spaniel
- Parson Russell Terrier7
How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Deaf?
So, you bring a new puppy home and call her Erica. You notice that Erica doesn’t respond when you call or react when you shake her box of treats. Does that mean your puppy is deaf? That could be the case. If you notice any of the following, that might mean your dog has hearing loss.
- The dog never responds when you call their name.
- They don’t react to the sound of the vacuum cleaner, or someone knocking on your door.
- They don’t seem to be as active as they should be.
- You have a hard time waking them up from a nap.
- They tilt their head a lot or shake excessively.
- They bark more than normal.8
See your veterinarian if you have any reason to believe your dog is having hearing issues. Your vet will probably look for anything that could be obstructing the ear canal, such as dirt or wax, and may also check for an infection. One very effective method for detecting hearing loss is the BAER test, which stands for Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response. This test shows how the brain’s electrical activity behaves in response to certain sounds.9
Tips For Living With A Deaf Dog
Deaf dogs are just as loyal and loving as dogs without any hearing issues. They show the same kind of body language when they’re happy to see you, and they’ll give you just as many kisses when you snuggle with them on the couch. There are, however, a few special considerations you’ll have to keep in mind.
- It’s important to keep a deaf dog in a fenced yard. If that’s not an option, always keep your dog on a leash when outside.
- Get a tag for your dog’s collar that informs people your dog is deaf. Put your phone number on the tag should your dog ever get out.
- If your dog is snoozing and you have to leave, let them know before you go. They might be upset when they wake up and no one’s home. Also, tap your foot a little before waking them. You don’t want to startle your pup.10
These are just a few of the ways you can adjust when living with a deaf dog. But really, it’s not that much different than being with a dog who can hear. Dogs of all kinds are incredible animals who provide years of joy and loving companionship.