I am so very
glad that you have visited our site. There is so much to say about loving and living
with a deaf dog that I can only begin here. What I know for absolute
certainty is that I would not trade my life with my deaf pups for anything in
I have been working with deaf dogs since 1993 and have been extremely blessed to be introduced to thousands of people around the world who have deaf dogs as loving family members. As a result of these marvelous experiences, I share with you some of the things that we have learned together.
The best advice I can give anyone with a deaf dog, child, friend,
or relative is to establish a solid method of communication.
IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS! My husband bought me a pocket-sized book on American
Sign Language (ASL) because I did not know ASL prior to adopting my boy, Hogan. We chose ASL for several reasons. First, it's already in place and there is no need to "reinvent the wheel." Second, there are a great number of people who already know
at least a bit of sign; we met many of them as we took walks or visited places. In addition, when I had to leave my pups with a sitter
or the veterinarian, I merely gave them the handbook or copies of the most important signs. This made it possible for them to communicate with my pups without a great deal of instruction - critical in sudden situations! Lastly and very importantly, my pups were never left in a totally "silent" environment - someone could always talk to them. When I later adopted a deaf female, Georgia, both of them. including with my hearing Black lab, India, understood many signs and short sentences. Ultimately, I used 60-70 signs with them. It was wonderful. All three of my dogs were extremely focused and watched my hands and face for messages. Onlookers often remarked how intent my deaf dogs were in their response, eagerness, and understanding. My dogs loved to connect - to be signed to.
I started with the basics. "Sit" is great to begin along with "cookie." Believe me - once your pup understands that your hands are telling them something yummy - "cookie" - you will be off and running! Keep it simple and always use a sign for what you want. Deaf dogs are smart - most pups are - and they learn. Dogs are physical and naturally watch for signals and body language.
Because my pups loved to ride in the car, I consistently signed "car," and they learned to run to the door. "Kiss" was fun and going for a "walk" met with approval. "Potty" (I used the sign for toilet which is simply the letter "T") is great. I signed it every time I took them out to go potty, and they knew I meant business, especially if it was late and I wanted to go to "bed."
I used simple repetition and plenty of positive reward and praise to train my pups to understand sign language - instead of using the spoken word, I used the sign for the word and then had my pups do what I wanted or needed them to do.
Be gentle, patient, and very positive.
Reward, never punish. The more you reward, the more the pup will respond. This is how I did all my training.
Socialization is also extremely important - and never stop. It must be continuous. Let others give treats. This teaches that meeting someone is a wonderful experience for your pups. I even placed a cookie jar near the front door and encouraged visitors to enter, tell my dogs to be "calm" and "sit," and then offer a "cookie.
Desensitization to scary situations (such as being startled or awakened suddenly) is a must and needs to be performed with care, patience, and a slow pace.
Praise is crucial; touch is essential; and massage works wonders.
AND . . . remember that a tired dog is a good dog!!!