We’re all ears when it comes to making life a little easier as biology starts to catch up with our buddies. Though it can be a challenge entering the next phase of life, who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks? For deaf dogs or dogs who are hard of hearing, hand signals are a lifesaver for training and bonding. Read on for some pointers on how to communicate with your dog using hand signals.
Working with a dog who has recently lost his or her hearing is quite a bit like learning a new language. Think of what you’re teaching as doggy ASL.
Eye contact is key. Start with a bit of lure reward training. Begin by motioning downward (to signify ‘down’) with your hand, while holding a treat. Reward your buddy when he complies. Once your dog gets the hang of it, you can begin removing the treat from the equation. Try using a thumbs-up to signal that they’ve done what you asked. Over time, they will respond to your cue. Remember, practice makes perfect!
A Little Extra TLC
Just like us humans, dogs are big visual learners. If your dog was born deaf, there are a couple key things to keep in mind in the early stages. It’s crucial to socialize your dog while he’s young—car rides, visits to the park, and meet-and-greets with other dogs all count.
It’s easy for deaf dogs to develop anxiety about being startled, and teaching your deaf dog to respond to hand signals will help reduce this stress. This useful signing video will get you started.
Tools of the Trade
As you can imagine, getting the attention of a deaf dog is a bit challenging. In order to avoid startling your dog by coming up behind him, a vibrating collar can be an invaluable tool. Be warned that many of these collars also come with a shock function. For use with your deaf dog in particular, this guide from the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund is invaluable.
Other tools of the trade? Treats. Mountains and mountains of treats. A dog’s sense of smell is keen, no matter their hearing.
Do Some Digging
Ask your vet about local trainers. Though it’s not a requirement that the trainer specializes in hearing-impaired dogs, it is possible to find such trainers. The primary difference between training a deaf dog and a dog that can hear is emphasis on eye contact. With commands like “stay,” it’s already pretty common to use a firm hand motioning “stop,” so there is a bit of overlap in method.
The Deaf Dog Education Fund is a great resource for training tips.
It takes patience and hard work, but training a dog with hand signals is an incredibly rewarding experience. Integrate your dog’s training into everyday life, and you’ll be sharing inside jokes in no time.
What’s that? You need a heartwarming story for motivation? Check out the moving story of Rosie and Cindy, a match truly made in heaven.
Top image via Flickr