Imagine greeting a litter of brand new Labrador Retriever puppies that have just entered the world. They are small, their eyes are still closed, their tiny ears are pressed against their heads. With cute little paws and tiny little tails, what's not to love? Imagine that you are planning on keeping the adorable lemon colored puppy, or that these puppies live in another home or in a shelter, and that you will be picking up the little lemon puppy from there when he is old enough. As the puppies grow, their ears begin to grow and flop down, their little eyes open up, and their fur changes from a silky or fluffy down to a coarse outer coat and a warm undercoat. It soon becomes apparent that the lemon-colored puppy is not responding to noises the same way that the other puppies are. Before long it is confirmed, the adorable little puppy is deaf.
Although it is sad that your puppy cannot hear, it does not have to mean tragedy for your puppy. With you as his educated and committed owner, the little puppy can still be trained in other ways, and he can thrive. Hand signals are a wonderful way to communicate with a dog of any age. Many dogs with great hearing are taught using hand signals in addition to verbal commands. Hand signals allow you to be able to still communicate with your dog when things are loud, and when you need to be quiet or discrete. Some dogs even learn hand signals faster than they learn verbal commands.
Not all dogs that are trained using hand signals are deaf. Many people teach their dogs hand signals in addition to verbal commands by simply doing the hand signal at the same time that they give the verbal command. Many treat luring techniques teach will your dog to watch your hand motion while you are holding a treat, and it is very easy to simply remove the treat from your hand and to continue doing the hand motion as a hand signal rather than as a treat lure.
Training your dog how to respond to a hand signal will take about as long training your dog how to respond to a verbal command. More visual breeds, such as sight hounds and herding breeds, might even learn how to respond to hand signals faster than verbal commands. If your dog has trouble being still and focusing on you with his eyes, then it might take him longer to learn commands using hand signals.
If your dog is deaf, then it might be useful to train your dog to look at you using a vibrating remote training collar. When your dog looks at you because of the vibrating sensation, you can then give him a command using a hand signal. This can allow you to train your dog to respond to you from further distances. Some dogs are frightened of the vibrating sensation of the collar, so if you utilize vibrating collars, make sure that you introduce the collar carefully and pair it with lots of rewards so that your dog will enjoy it and not find the experience stressful. If your dog is still afraid of the collar sensation, then do not use a vibrating collar.
When you choose what hand signal to use for each command that you teach, be sure to choose a hand signal that is visible to your dog from far away, and that does not closely resemble any other hand signals that he already knows, so that he will not become confused about what to do.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. If your dog is deaf, and you are using the treats as a lure, then choose treats that are easy to see and that smell really good. Depending on what command you are training, you might also need an assistant, props, a certain location, a leash, a collar, or a harness. With all of the methods, you will need clear hand signal choices, your dog's focus on you, an upbeat, happy attitude that is expressed through your body language, and patience. You will also need a distraction-free environment, where your dog will not be looking around at other things.