Dogs are great at reading body language and can learn hand signals. Hand signals are essential when training deaf dogs.
These are five things you should remember when working with a deaf pet dog.
Attention is crucial. Use non-verbal cues to help your dog orient towards you. If your dog is close enough to the cues, you can use a tactile cue such as gently tapping her on the side or waving your hands in a specific pattern to make them feel it.
A family member who uses American Sign Language will be able to train a deaf dog. They are used to making eye contact and signalling their intent. Huntstock / Getty Images
Pair each cue with treats or a favorite toy to teach it. While food may be the easiest, toys can also work well, especially for highly motivated dogs. If your dog is not interested in food or toys, it’s a good idea to work with a positive reinforcement trainer who can help think outside of the box when creating your training plan.
Gently tap your dog and wave your hand if he can see you. Or stomp your feet to give a treat or gift. To make the process easy, start when your dog is paying attention. Next, repeat the gesture often and without distractions. Then try it again when your dog is slightly distracted. Dogs will soon learn that the sound of your attention-getting tap, wave or vibration means you are about to give them something they want. Teaching a tactile cue to your dog can help reduce the natural startle reflex, which is a bonus.
You should reward your dog for checking in and show him that you are “all done”. Pay attention to your dog’s eye contact and pay attention when he does. This will help you teach your dog that keeping his eyes on you is good. Be present when you’re out with your dog. Don’t lose your mind in your phone. You can also teach your dog an “all done” signal when you want them to be calm and settle down. The American Sign Language sign for “finished” is our favorite, but any gesture that’s consistent with the absence of interaction can work. Use your hand signals. It’s easy for a dog to learn a behavior by using a lure, which is often done with a treat placed in front of his nose. You can fade the treat and still use the same gesture as the cue. If you are trying to teach your dog to lie down, have her follow the treat from her nose to your ground. Then, her “down” signal can be as simple as pointing from her nose to your ground.
To let your dog know when it’s working, or if he’s on the right track, teach him a visual marker. This could be a thumbs-up gesture, flashing from a flashlight, or a quick thumbs up gesture. We use a verbal indicator (such as “Yes!” or “Good!” for hearing dogs) to let them know when he’s done the right thing. This is just before we give the reward.
Use a vibration collar. A vibration collar is a great tool for deaf dogs. It is especially useful when the dog is distant, is distracted, or has his back turned. The vibration collar can be used as a recall cue. Feeling the vibrations means your dog is racing to you for something amazing!
A flash from a small flashlight can be used as a signal for a sign.
Start by giving your dog a treat and pairing it with the collar. As your dog explores the collar, you can give treats to your dog. As the collar vibrates, you can hold it against your dog’s neck. Give your dog a treat each time the collar vibrates. This should be done slowly over several days so your dog can understand that vibration equals a tasty treat. This will create a positive conditioned emotion response (CER), in your dog’s brain: Vibration equals Chicken. Chicken equals yum. Vibration also equals yum. Quick! Get to me quickly to grab the yum!
When your dog puts the collar on his collar and activates vibration, you’ll notice a positive CER. He will immediately look forward to you with a happy expression, anticipating a treat. Your vibration will become a recall cue if you add distance and distractions gradually over time. To ensure that your dog doesn’t become distracted, you must pay generously.
Remember that some dogs will become anxious about vibrations, regardless of how slow you go. In these cases, a vibrating collar may not be the best option. No matter how good your dog’s hearing is, it’s best to keep him in fenced areas or to use a longer line if you want to give him more freedom. It is impossible to ensure a dog’s recall is perfect. If he has one less sense to engage it can make it harder to find a lost or loose dog.
Talk to your deaf pet! Although your deaf dog might not be able hear you, your body language and facial expressions will become more natural. Breathe. Relax. Smile. Although she may not be able to hear you, she will learn a lot from your facial expressions, unique body language and behavior patterns that help strengthen and build your relationship.
Deaf dog training
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