Tips for Training a Deaf Dog or Blind Dog

While some people think training a deaf dog or blind dog is impossible, I know that it can be done.  The methods used are slightly different than what are used to train a normal dog, but it is overall the same. 

Certain breeds are prone to becoming deaf, while some dogs are born that way.  In other cases, a disease will cause deafness, or simply old age. 

Perhaps your pet is not completely deaf, but only hard of hearing.  That's OK!  This isn't that much more difficult than training a normal dog. With some helpful tips, your deaf dog can enjoy the same quality of life and wonderful relationship with you as a normal hearing one.  In training your canine, dog training hand signals will be the main path of communication. 

Training a Deaf Dog

Since he can't hear you, the most important part of training a deaf dog is getting his attention, so that you can use dog training hand signals.  You can do this using his other heightened senses - sight, smell, and touch. 

Once this "watch me" command is understood by the dog, it opens up the door for all the other signal commands.

An important thing to keep in mind if you have a deaf dog, is that you can easily startle him.  Do not let children or other adults touch your pet until he is aware that they are there, or he might bite out of fear or being startled.

Probably the hardest command to teach a deaf dog is the recall, or come.  Not being able to hear you means that you need to have another way to get his attention.  One good way to do this is to purchase a vibrating collar, or "pager", with a remote (NOT an electronic e-collar). 

It is not a correction, but simply a vibration on your dog's neck to get his attention.  With some training, he can quickly learn that it means for him to look at you, so you can signal the command for him to come.

Training a Deaf DogPhoto courtesy of Jim Pennucci via Flickr

Don't buy into the lie that you will never be able to let your dog off leash.  With a lot of patience, hard work and time training a deaf dog, you can get to that point!  It is important to remember though, that it may dangerous for a deaf or blind dog to be let off leash close to a busy road.

Training Blind Dogs

Perhaps your dog/puppy was born blind, or by some accident or disease has become blind.  Training a blind dog will help him feel more secure and confident in otherwise scary situations for a blind pet.

The good news is that a dog's most important sense is not sight, but scent.  Their ability to smell and hear rank way higher than how well they can see.  With this knowledge, you don't have to worry about training a blind dog.  No hand signals are used in the training, voice commands only. 

With a normal dog, we use a voice command and hand signal to teach the come.  With a blind dog, we use a voice command and sometimes a whistle (audible or a silent dog whistle) to teach this command.

The biggest problems with a blind pet are risk of accidents due to him not seeing the danger.  A few examples:

  1. Your dog falls down the stairs because he doesn't know that they are there.

  2. He walks into walls, doors, stairs, fences or other objects because he can't see them and doesn't know that they are there.  Usually a blind dog will learn his way around his own home quite well, without walking into things.  The problem comes when it is a new environment, a new place, furniture being moved around at home, etc.

  3. Your pet gets hit by a car because he does not see the danger and walks/runs onto the road.  A reliable recall is of paramount importance for a blind dog.

Most of these problems can be overcome by training a blind dog the recall or come command, as well as a sit or stay command.  So don't give up yet, your best friend is not a lost cause. 

Training a deaf dog or training a blind dog will take a little more work on your part, but it can be done.  Enjoy increased communication with your special needs dog by obedience training him!

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