Living with a Deaf Dog

You may have heard that deaf dogs are aggressive, or that they're impossible to train. Actually, deaf dogs learn just as well as hearing dogs do, and they can be wonderful companions.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
6-minute read
Episode #211

Keep Your Deaf Dog Posted Concerning Your Whereabouts

“You must always let the dog know where you are. Although it is so terribly tempting, it is unfair to leave while the dog is asleep and let him or her wake up with a start and have to race around to see if they've been left behind (which they have). It is a fast track to separation anxiety, of course, but besides that it's just mean.”

Watch Your Body Language

“Deaf dogs tend to be absolutely expert at reading body language and cues, so pay extra attention to your gestures and your stance.  For example, even a slight lean forward [among dogs, that’s a “stay away” signal] can keep a deaf dog from approaching as close as possible for a recall, because they are scouring you visually for clues on what you want.”

Keep Your Cues Distinct

Just as a hearing dog may be confused by word cues that sound alike, a deaf dog may mix up cues that look alike. Jess says, “I have got into a bit of a pickle from teaching Calvin so many tricks and now competition cues: it’s hard to make them distinct.” But of course, that’s actually good news if you’re still thinking you might not be able to train your deaf dog. Au contraire! You may wind up having to get really creative with your signals. Jump up and down on one foot to mean “Fetch my slippers,” maybe?

Here are a two more resources for you to check out: the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund; Deaf Dogs Rock  and a busy Yahoo! group, Deaf Dogs. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a training guide specific to deaf dogs that incorporates modern non-coercive methods. Oh, and one other thing – your situation’s a bit different if your dog isn’t born deaf but goes deaf later in life. There may be a substantial adjustment period, especially if hearing is lost suddenly. As in any other training situation, use your good sense and kindness, and beware of quick fixes that rely on force. 

For more about teaching and living with your dog, check out my book, The Dog Trainer’s Complete Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Pet. I’m The Dog Trainer on Facebook, and you can also write to me at dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com. I welcome your comments and suggestions, and though I can’t reply individually, I may use them as the basis for future articles. Thanks for reading!


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).