Learning that your new pooch is deaf is the first hurdle any owner must accept. But then learning that training a deaf dog is not very different from training a hearing one, can take some of the sting out of learning that your dog is deaf.
You don’t need to use any different methods in deaf dog training, only different cues. Training a deaf dog does not even take any more time or effort. The concepts are all the same, as hearing dogs learn the meaning of words and commands through repetition, deaf dogs learn the same way. Because we depend so much on speech to communicate as humans, we just assume that dogs do so as well.
Dogs do not understand the English language or any other language. When two dogs meet, there is very little verbal communication between the two. They use scent and body language to communicate. They tell each other almost everything through these two forms of dog communication. The barking, whining and growling that our dogs use as verbal communication are an additional form of dog interaction, but not the primary one.
Competition dogs who compete for Obedience titles are required to learn hand signals. Working dogs use either hand signals or body language cues to perform their work. Most trainers will teach owners to use voice commands first and then move onto hand signals. Hand signals are by far, much easier for a dog to learn. Therefore, training a deaf dog is really not difficult at all.
Deaf dog training does not mean that you have to hire a trainer. There are many books on the subject of training deaf dogs and learning the hand signals can be done visually in the training book. There is a famous saying, “you can train a dog in five minute, it takes much longer to train the owner.”
Consistency is the first and foremost important thing about training a dog, whether the dog is deaf or not. There are no ‘wrong’ hand signals in training a deaf dog; you can use whatever feels most comfortable to you. Some people use American Sign Language or ASL. This is the same sign language that is used for deaf people. The advantage to using ASL in training your deaf dog, is that anyone who can sign ASL can communicate with your dog.
There are some dog owners who make up all of their own hand signals. However, most dog owners who are training a deaf dog, will use a combination of ASL and their own signals. Any hand signals that you choose will be fine for you and your dog.