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Deaf dogs can live normal lives, but need to have a special dedicated owner to work with them. Check out these tips from AKC GoodDog! Helpline trainer Erin Rakosky on how to train a deaf dog.

Training a Deaf Dog: Positive reward-based training is essential when working with a deaf dog. To start training your dog, being able to get their attention is important. You can get their attention with either a wave in front of their face, thumping your fist on the floor to create a vibration, or by touching them gently (always in the same location).

Collars that produce a light vibration can also be used (only vibration—never a shock collar). Use caution when using light (such as a laser pointer) to get their attention, as some dogs develop Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder behaviors with lights and shadows.

Since your dog cannot hear a click or a marker word, teaching them a signal that means they did something good is crucial. Many trainers will use thumbs up to signal this. You can condition your dog to this by giving the signal and rewarding with a treat. Soon your dog will understand that thumbs up means treat!

You are then ready to move forward with basic obedience commands. Deaf dogs can be trained using the same luring and hand signals that dogs with the ability to hear use. Eventually you can begin to rely on hand signals alone. Have fun and be creative! You can use American Sign Language to teach your dog all kinds of words and tricks!


How To Prevent Startling Your Deaf Dog: Non-hearing dogs are often startled or scared by things suddenly appearing or a person touching them since they cannot hear the approach.

It is important thing to work with your dog on desensitization to reduce startling. To desensitize your dog to touch, start by always touching them in the same location, and each time you touch offer a food reward. Initially start by being in sight of your dog, and then once your dog is comfortable with this exercise, move to being out of your dog’s sight when you touch them.

To help condition your dog to wake easily with a gentle touch, start by approaching them while they are sleeping. Place your hand in front of their nose allowing them to smell you, and then gently stroke just a couple of hairs gradually increasing the pressure until your dog wakes. Once their eyes are open, reward them with a treat. They will learn that waking up in response to touch is a positive experience.

With the proper knowledge, positive training and patience, owning a deaf dog can be very rewarding. There are many resources available as well as deaf dog support groups that can offer many helpful tips. With the right training, your deaf dog can do anything a dog with hearing can do. There are many deaf dogs in performance events including obedience, agility, flyball and scent work.
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