How to Train a Deaf Puppy

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Training a deaf puppy takes a lot of time and patience, but it’s based on the same concept as training a hearing puppy: You need to reward your puppy when he engages in behavior you want to encourage and withhold rewards when he does something you don’t want. The challenge with a deaf puppy is in getting your puppy’s attention and in developing an effective sign language to communicate with him.

Things You'll Need

  • Treats
  • Vibrating collar, optional

Decide on a sign you will use to tell your puppy that she’s doing the right thing. You’ll use this in situations when you’d say “yes” or “good dog” to a hearing puppy. Make sure it’s visible from a distance, is different from your ordinary hand gestures and doesn’t look threatening to your puppy.

Teach your puppy the “yes” sign by getting his attention, using the sign and then immediately rewarding him with a treat. Do this a few times in a row and watch his reaction. If he looks excited when you sign “yes,” he understands that there’s a connection between the sign and a reward.

Introduce a “pay attention” sign once you’re sure that your puppy understands “yes,” making sure it’s a unique and visible sign and that it encourages her to look in your eyes. A good way to introduce this sign is to first reward her by looking at you. Sign “yes” and give her a treat when she makes eye contact. Once she’s in the habit of watching you, use the “pay attention” sign when you notice she’s looking at you. If she continues looking at you, sign “yes” and give her a treat. Encourage your puppy to look at you even when you aren’t asking for it by rewarding her whenever she makes eye contact with you.

Develop a sign for “come.” Whenever he walks towards you, use the “come” sign. When he is near you, sign “yes” and give him a treat. When it’s clear that he expects a reward for coming to you, use the “come” sign whenever you notice that he’s looking at you from at least a few feet away. If he comes to you, sign “yes” and give him a treat.

Find a method to get your puppy’s attention when she’s not looking at you. If you’re indoors with her, stomping your foot will vibrate the floor and give her a signal, while a vibrating collar can do the same thing outside. When she looks at you, sign “come.” When she comes to you, sign “yes” and give her a treat.

Use the same method as you used to teach “yes,” “pay attention,” and “come” to teach other skills. You want to find a behavior that your puppy naturally does, and then attach a sign and a reward to that behavior. Once your puppy understands the three basic signs, and you’ve found a way to get her attention wherever she is, you can teach further obedience skills as well as tricks.

Tips & Warnings

  • When you use a sign, it's helpful to also use a verbal cue. This verbal cue will help you convey facial expressions and body language that can support the sign. Your puppy will be watching your whole body, not just your hands, so this will make training easier. You don't necessarily need to use edible treats for training. You just need to provide your puppy with a reward that he sees as valuable. A vibrating collar is not a shock collar. Rather than shocking your puppy, it lightly vibrates like a cell phone or pager. A vibrating collar can be a useful training tool, but isn't necessary. It's just a way to get your puppy's attention, much like calling a hearing puppy's name.
  • Never use physical punishment when you train your deaf puppy. This will only frighten him. Focus instead on rewarding good behavior.

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