If your deaf dog can't hear you call him, how do you get his attention? How do you communicate? The thing about dogs is, they are not primarily verbal communicators, so your dog's deafness is more of a handicap for you than for him. Dogs do not use language to communicate like we do, and other senses such as smell and sight are usually more well-developed and relied upon by your dog to communicate. Dogs naturally communicate with other dogs using body language, so training a deaf dog with hand signals is quite natural for your dog. But, in order to communicate with hand signals, you need to have your dog look at you first. If he has his back turned to you or is in another area where he can’t see you, you need to get his attention first.
Getting your deaf dog to look at you is not necessarily difficult, it just means a little bit of creativity on your part to work around his hearing impairment. Whether you are teaching an older dog, who has become deaf, to look at you by replacing a previous command to attend, or teaching a young hearing-impaired puppy to attend you, using visual, tactile, and olfactory, (smell) senses to get your dog's attention are all effective in teaching your dog to look at you.
Dogs naturally seek attention and relationship from their owners, so working with your dog to get him to look at you, so that you can communicate with him is something, he is already motivated to do. Reinforcing this natural tendency so that your dog looks at you when signalled, or “checks in” with you habitually, is usually relatively easy to teach your dog with alternative signals, although it may be more difficult for you let go of your natural tendency to communicate audibly!
Using light to train deaf dogs to look at you is usually effective in darkened or indoor locations, so a flashlight or penlight is a useful tool. A vibrating collar, which is not a shock collar, but a collar that provides a gentle vibration in response to a remote signal and is available commercially, can be extremely useful to get your dog's attention. Treats, and especially smelly foods can be used to reinforce checking behavior with your deaf dog. The following methods can be used to get your deaf dog to look at you using these tools.