Whether a dog is discovered to be deaf or not, many dog trainers and animal owners alike are teaching dogs sign language signals as opposed to using a loud, firm voice. Dogs sometimes have the ability to learn and understand even more signs than they do verbal commands.
When training the dog with signs, it is many times a faster learned skill if treats are involved. Dogs love a good treat!
When attempting to train for something other than “sit,” “stay,” “down,” use the treats or kibble. Display the sign and then when the dog fulfills the command, reward the dog with the treat. Once the dog repeats the command several times over an extended period of time, switch from using treats or kibble to giving the dog a more loving reward so that it does not become habit that the dog will only follow the command if rewarded.
Dogs tend to be tremendously adaptable to visual learning thus they tend to pick up on visual commands much quicker than verbal ones. Teaching the sign language also tends to be less noisy than repeatedly calling out a command.
So what about training a deaf dog? How can you get the dog’s attention in order to begin the training process? Well first you must maintain eye contact. Just as with training a human being, once eye contact is established, you can be more certain that the person or animal on the other end has your attention.
What happens if you are across the room and cannot get the dog to focus on you? This can be a challenge to say the least. This is where you may have to be a bit creative. Perhaps purchase a cheap laser pointer or a small flashlight that you only use to get the dog’s attention, while walking in busy areas, or other situations around the home. You could also use a lightweight toy to toss in front of the pooch or stomp your foot, but the stomping tends to be noisy and can get to be somewhat rude in public. Some trainers and dog owners even invest in a vibration collar for their deaf dog. The only problem is that the dog may develop a selective attention span and ignore the ‘buzz.’
No matter what type or how much training a deaf dog receives, they still cannot hear and this can be dangerous in some situations thus you will need to train them much more than a few tricks or absolute symbols, you will want to teach social needs as well.
Sign language comes into play for both hearing as well as deaf dogs. The uses are totally different, but both extremely handy! Look into training your dog with sign language and yield very pleasant results.