dog learning visual cues in training

It’s Deaf Dog Awareness Month and this year, we’re continuing to discuss ways that you can help improve your relationship with your dog – whether they are deaf or not. 

The chances of you working with a deaf dog is not as slim as you may think. There are many reasons why your dog may lose his hearing temporarily or permanently. According to one study from Louisiana State University, deaf dogs appear in 2.56 to 6.5 cases per 10,000 dogs seen at veterinary school teaching hospitals. 

But, don’t worry. There are plenty of things you can do to prepare both your dog and yourself for that day – the first and most important is to teach your dog hand signals

Teaching Hand Signals

“The training for a deaf dog is exactly the same as with a hearing dog with the exception of using verbal cues with a hearing dog and visual cues with a deaf dog,” said Christina Lee, Founder of Deaf Dogs Rock and National Deaf Dogs Rock Day

“The very first thing to consider in regards to your deaf dog or puppy is that your deaf pup is: A dog first, breed second, and  deaf third,” Lee said. “We only promote and use positive reinforcement (+R) clicker training methods to give each deaf dog an opportunity to make the right choice and support that choice by marking the choice with a marker, followed by treating the dog with a high value reward.” 

deaf dog

Dogs are more Visual

Most trainers encourage their clients to use both a sign cue and a verbal cue. This is important because dogs tend to learn faster using “visual” cues. It’s not unusual for dogs (like us) to tone out voices, which can impact their ability to learn. 

You can read more about the Watch Me cues by watching this free video from Deaf Dogs Rock.  

Watch Me

As Lee points out, the most important command to begin with is one that captures your dog attention. “One of the most important sign cues you can teach your deaf dog or hearing dog is the “watch me” sign. It is one of the first signs your deaf dog should learn from you when you start his/her training program. If you do this exercise often, soon your deaf dog will constantly check in with you all the time.”

Even if your dog is not deaf today, there is no way to know what the future holds. Teaching your dog how to communicate in ways that go beyond listening is critical to you and your pets relationship. If the worst case happens and your dog loses his hearing, you already have a way to assure them they will be safe. 

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