National Deaf Dog Awareness Week – Tips on training your deaf dog

national deaf dog awareness week – training tips

By: Maureen Hoopes

The idea of training a deaf dog may seem overwhelming. The good news is that training a deaf dog is very similar to traditional dog training. We just focus on a few important differences. First, we work on clear communication using a visual marker. If you are familiar with clicker training, the concept is the same, but we use a visual marker instead since deaf dogs can’t hear the click. There are three types of visual markers commonly used with deaf dogs. Full hand flash, three-finger hand flash, and a thumbs up. 

Once we have established a clear communication style, there are five must-have behaviors/cues that all deaf dogs need to know and three absolute NoNos. Natalie at K9 Concepts has a fabulous Youtube series of deaf dog training videos. You can access this link below, which provides details on how to train these behaviors/cues. 

Do teach your deaf dog the following:

  1.     Check-in behaviors are achieved by rewarding your pup each time they look in your direction. Begin working on this behavior in areas with minimal distractions, such as different rooms in your home and your backyard. Once mastered, take it on the road, starting with areas with fewer distractions and increasing as your deaf dog shows you their capabilities. 
  2.     Tactile orientation video:
  3.     Double tug recall video:
  4.     The disengagement game for dogs video:
  5.     Settle on a bed/in a crate video:

 Do not use the following with deaf dogs;

  • Flashlights
  • Laser pointers
  • Vibration collars

Flashlights and Laser pointers can contribute to Abnormal Repetitive Behaviors, known as ARC, in deaf dogs that cause anxiety over reflective lights, shadows, and more. Vibration collars can scare or startle deaf dogs. We always want to build confidence in all dogs, deaf and hearing, so this would be counterproductive to that end. 

Using the training listed above will help you on your path to successfully training your deaf dog.  For additional tips on this and other training topics, please reach out to Ruff Start Rescue, or your local trainer.

Happy training!

Blog and graphic by Maureen Hoopes, one of Ruff Start Rescue’s volunteer trainers, who focus on supporting our fosters and helping create successful dogs.