The key to success is a positive attitude, unconditional love, understanding that your pup really wants to please you, and tons of praise & reward.
1. How do I get my deaf dogís attention?
In the house or on a deck, you can stomp on the floor and the vibration will alert your pup. When your pup looks around, motion for him to come towards you; and as soon as you get a positive response, give tons of praises and rewards. I even use the hallway light when my pups are upstairs and I want them to come down. I flick the hall light on and off, and they come running.
Inside or outside - I use a variety of tricks. I send my other dogs to go and fetch, wave my arms to catch their peripheral vision, or throw a toy in their direction. I have also used a flashlight or laser light (careful to never point a laser light towards eyes!!) This doesn't work very well on sunny days but itís great on cloudy days, in the morning or evening, and on the snow!! My Hogan loved to chase the light!! There is also collar that vibrates only but has limited range. We tested a collar that has the choice of vibrate or shock (NEVER would we use the shock setting.) It has a much larger range, but we didn't like the price or the shock option. Hogan trained well to it but our Georgia was scared to death of the vibration. We didn't force it with her because she was so fearful. We have also used scent to attract them - a whiff of their favorite treat gets them coming in a flash.
2. How do I housebreak my pup?
Getting your deaf pup to go "potty" outside is really no different than for a hearing dog. Regular trips to the same spot in the yard are critical. It is also extremely important to walk your pup 15-20 minutes after eating (sometimes sooner) and after he takes a drink of water. Always use the sign for potty Ė put your thumb of your right hand between your index and middle fingers of a closed fist. Gently shake your fist back and forth. When your pup does the deed, praise, reward, praise, and reward.
3. How do I teach my dog to come?
Remember: "Come" may be the most important sign you teach your pup. It could save your pupís life.
Again, teaching the recall is the same for a deaf dog as for a hearing one Ė you just have to get his attention first and make coming to you the best thing in the world!! This is when you use the most delectable treat of all!! (Of course it must be one that will not hurt your pup.) I use small pieces of chicken. My husband uses small pieces of roast beef. The only times we use these treats are when we are teaching our pups to come. Itís got to be special.
Teaching the sign for cookie helps, too. If I sign "cookie," they come running.
4.How do I begin to desensitize my deaf pup from being startled?
To desensitize my pups from being startled, I would gently walk up behind them when they didn't know I was there and touch them. When they saw me, I would give a vigorous rub down. Of course, each pup is different and will accept "vigorous" at different starting points. My boy, Hogan, took months to accept "vigorous." My girl, Georgia, accepted it immediately. But, keep at it. I also would wake them out of sound sleep. I started by patting the bed or area they were sleeping. Add suddenness and make your patting gradually harder. Again, be patient and work slowly. Do not expect it to take only a few days. You can add a favorite reward when you awaken or "startle" your pup - make it something that is delicious and saved for this training. Confidence and feeling safe takes time. Remember that the saying, "Let a sleeping dog lie," started with our hearing pups. We need to desensitize all our pups from being startled when sleeping or at any time. I also took walks and asked many people to approach from the front and give treats. Because Hogan was untrained and unsocialized for the first 18 months of his life, it took me much longer to desensitize him to sudden movements. By the time I completed that training, I could just about "bounce" on him, and he didn't care. Slow, gentle, consistent, continuous training, loving, and rewarding will work wonders.
I also recommend that you exercise your pup at least twice a day in hard, aerobic fun - something he or she absolutely loves to do. Just playing at will in the yard doesn't count. I played Frisbee, ran them in lure coursing, or on our mini agility course, and took them on brisk walks. My pups bonded closer to me than I ever imagined they would. Many deaf pups bond tighter, love harder, and learn quicker. The rewards are awesome.