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Semi-Deaf or Deaf Dog Training Methods

Tank was about eight years old when his responses to noises began to change. When we clapped behind him, he seemed confused about where the noise was coming from. Eventually, he didn’t respond at all.…

Tank was about eight years old when his responses to noises began to change. When we clapped behind him, he seemed confused about where the noise was coming from. Eventually, he didn’t respond at all. A veterinarian specialist found that Tank was 80% deaf. He knew hand signals, which was a tremendous help, but the biggest issue was having Tank come to me if he was facing away. That’s dangerous because if Tank should take off, he wouldn’t be able to hear things that could hurt or threaten him.

The Hearing Impaired (Deaf) Dog class was added to my class schedule because of Tank’s hearing loss. Hearing impaired dogs can have the same good manners as a hearing dog, including walking politely on a leash. Owners need clear and consistent hand signals for ‘sit, stay, come,’ various other commands, as well as ‘good dog.’

Look at Me: One critical thing is to teach your dog to focus or look at you with a touch and hand signal. Treats are a must in all of these exercises, and an electronic training collar. An exercise I like is the ‘look at me’ game. Practice in a quiet area. Have the training collar on a low setting and have a treat bag attached to you; leash your dog and put the leash on the ground, stepping on it so your dog cannot move away. When using the training collar, as you put

the treat under the dog’s nose, tap the control button to get the dog’s attention, then quickly move the treat to your nose so the dog makes eye contact. Then reward with the treat. This can also be done without the training collar: put the treat under the dog’s nose so he can smell it; touch his nose, then quickly

move the treat to your nose. As the dog looks at you, smile and reward with the treat. The goal is to teach your dog to look at you whenever you touch his nose or cue with the collar.

Basic obedience using hand signals is important. Since, your dog cannot hear, he may be slower to learn because of visual and smell distractions, so be patient and give your dog extra time to learn the exercises. When teaching ‘sit,’ have your dog on leash and be in an area that is not visually stimulating. Tab your dog’s nose, as your dog looks at you give a clear precise hand signal, allow at least three seconds for him to respond. If he does not respond here are

two options.

  1. The treat method – put the treat very close to the dog’s nose and slowly move the treat up towards his eyes and ears so the dog will follow the treat and sit.

  2. The touch method – put your hand on your dog’s shoulders then slowly go towards his tail area and give a little pressure and your dog will sit. Have your dog look at you afterwardsand give him a ‘good dog’ signal.

Learn how to operate a dog training collar that has pulsating nick stimulation.

Choose the best training collar you can, one that will operate properly and last for years. Training collars are very helpful for getting your dog’s attention

and teaching him to come to you from a distance. Begin with the ‘Look at Me’ exercise above, using the training collar. This may take multiple sessions and a day or more, so be patient. When your dog learns that the signal means to look at you, start to change your relative location. For instance, stand behind your dog, signal him to look at you, immediately give him a treat when he does. In time, add more distance and use a long lead. By the second month you should be able to go into different rooms in your home, signal your dog and he should try to find you.

As with training any dog, learn to read your dog’s body language. Dogs constantly communicate through body language and you can learn about dogs’ body language from a knowledgeable dog trainer or by checking online. Remember that patience and consistency are key factors in training. When you’re patient, a dog will learn quickly for he will be relaxed and able to take in the lesson. Be consistent, train every day for 10-15 minutes. End the session with your dog’s favorite play time.

Eileen Tonick, owner of Angel Dogs, has been a trainer for over 25 years. For more information you can call Eileen at Angel Dogs at 480-332-8211 or go to their website at

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