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Deaf Dog Training Hand Signals

 Submitted by Michael Adams on May 12, 2010

The thought of training a deaf dog may seem daunting, however, deaf dog training is not difficult, as compared to training a normal dog, although it is different. Deaf dog training definitely requires more patience, understanding and commitment. The basics, however, remain the same – good behavior should be rewarded while undesirable behavior should be ignored.

A vital component of most canine training programs is verbal praise and feedback. However, since a deaf dog can’t hear, one of the biggest issues that the owner may face is finding a medium to communicate, especially for praise and appreciation. Fortunately, dogs can learn hand signals faster than they understand verbal commands.

Therefore, using dog training hand signals or sign language may be just as effective as verbal communication. Using the American Sign Language may be a good idea, as this will enable the dog to communicate with people who suffer from speech or hearing disabilities.

Given below are a few tips on how to train deaf dog:
  • The hand signals used should clear, easily distinguishable, visible from a distance and consistent. Therefore the same signs should be used by all the members of the family and people that communicate with the dog.
  • It is important to teach your dog the gesture for “good dog”, to show appreciation. It could be a simple gesture like a “thumbs up” signal. Gradually, teach your dog signs that can be associated with sit, no, down, stop, come and stay.
  • Repetition is a key factor of training a deaf dog. A dog may take a while to associate a signal with a command. Facial expressions can also be used to help the dog.
  • Food treats can be a great way of reinforcement. However, they should not be used as a bribe otherwise the dog will not respond to a command, without being bribed.
  • Getting the deaf dog’s attention can be a bit of a challenge, when he is looking away or sleeping. You could try thumping on the floor or stomping your foot to get his attention when he is close by, as he will be able to feel the vibration. Never sneak up on a deaf dog when he is sleeping, as it may scare or startle him. In case you want to wake him up, you could also try placing your hand near his nose, so that he can smell you. To get your dog’s attention during the night, you could train him to follow various signals of a flashlight.
  • Get your dog used to following a familiar odor or a particular smell in your house, which he can use, for tracking, to avoid getting lost.
There are many professional trainers and organizations that specialize in deaf dog training, with more advanced techniques
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