How to Get the Attention of a Deaf Dog

How to Get the Attention of a Deaf Dog

Dogs can be born deaf due to genetic defects, or they can lose their hearing in similar ways humans lose their hearing.  Chronic ear infections, injuries, age, and repeated exposure to loud noises.  Deaf dogs can also learn hand signals to communicate with their humans.

One of the biggest concerns for deaf dog owners is teaching their dog obedience commands and learning how to get the attention of a deaf dog.

Dog owners must learn how to get the attention of a deaf dog in order to keep the dog safe and to alert the dog of any dangers. The good news is dogs are naturally visual communicators. 

Knowing that dogs respond better to visual cues has prompted many to adapt the American Sign Language (ASL) hand signals and use them with their deaf dogs.  As of today, there is not a standard sign language for deaf dogs.  People that own a deaf dog will often use a Deaf Dog Sign Language (DDSL), which is based on the ASL hand signals.

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How to Get the Attention of a Deaf Dog: Prevent Startling a Deaf Dog

One issue with deaf dogs is they can be spooked or startled easily.  It is important to know how to use visual and scent cues when approaching or getting the attention of your deaf dog.

When you enter the room where your dog may be sleeping, be sure to make a gentle vibration such as taking heavy steps (if your dog is on the floor and can feel the vibration) or use a certain scent (like peanut butter), whatever works best for you and your dog.

Deaf dogs are also wonderful at using their nose.  You could use a certain scent that alerts your dog to your presence.  If you need to physically wake up your dog to take them outside or leave the house, you can use the “gentle touch method” described later in the article.

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How to Get the Attention of a Deaf Dog: Establish a Market Signal

When you begin training your dog, it is important to establish a marker signal.  A marker signal is the equivalent of a click in clicker training, “great job” or “yes, that is correct behavior”.  For dogs that can hear, often it is shortened to “yes” as the marker word.

Deaf dogs need a marker signal that works for the dog owners.  Some marker signals that work well are “thumbs up” or flashing “three fingers”, or you can use the ASL symbol for the word “yes”.

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You want a signal that will work in the home and in the yard. Marker signals are a quick way to praise your dog after you get their attention.  You can use the marker signal every time they give you eye contact as well.

When establishing and teaching your marker signal treat your dog within 2-3 seconds after using the signal.  Position your dog in front of you, have several treats in one hand, and use the other hand for the marker signal.  Flash your dog the signal and treat.  Repeat so it is clear that dog knows that that symbol means correct behavior.

Now you are ready to learn different methods of how to get the attention of a deaf dog.

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Getting a Deaf Dog’s Attention

The first question when you begin learning to obedience train your dog is how to get the attention of a deaf dog?  It is always good to remember that deaf dogs still have their sense of touch, sense of smell, and vision.

There are four common ways to use when first learning how to get the attention of a deaf dog. The first one is through vibrations on the ground, vibration through a vibration collar, through light signals, and gentle specific touch.

How to Get the Attention of a Deaf Dog: Ground Vibrations. There are two common ways to get your deaf dog’s attention using vibrations on the ground.  You can stomp your feet on the floor or use your fist to make tapping vibrations. 

Stomping your foot for ground vibrations is effective for how to get a deaf dog’s attention.  Practice with your dog.  Stomp your foot, your dog looks at you, give the marker signal and reward.

How to Get the Attention of a Deaf Dog: Collar Vibrations. Vibration collars are worn on the dog strictly for communication purposes. This type of collar is not an electronic shock collar.  A gentle vibration collar can symbolize the dog’s name and draw their attention to you. 

When first beginning to use a vibration collar with your deaf dog, let them experience the vibration on their leg or hip area.  Since deaf dogs can startle easily, the collar will not be attached to them at first. 

Give a vibration, your dog looks at you, reward.  Once they are familiar with the vibration sensation, you can pair the marker symbol with a reward.

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How to Get the Attention of a Deaf Dog: Light signals. This form of getting a dog’s attention is best used when it is dark outside.  You can use a small flashlight to get the dog’s attention.  Small keyring flashlights work well to get a deaf dog’s attention.

Dog trainers who have years of experience training deaf dog recommend a small flashlight as opposed to a bright big flashlight or even a laser light.  Deaf dogs can be obsessed with laser lights which will work against you and then not but an effective method to get their attention. 

Practice using light as method to get their attention, flash the light in front of the dog, the dog looks at you, give them the marker signal, and follow up with a reward.

How to Get the Attention of a Deaf Dog: Gentle Touch. Be consistent with how you touch your dog and where you touch your dog when you want to get their attention.  Often people will use two fingers and gently touch the dog’s shoulder or backend.

When using the gentle touch, make it a firm but gentle tap on the backend.  When your dog looks at you, give them the marker signal, and reward your dog.

When you begin training your deaf dog, keep the training sessions short but frequent.  Dogs learn new skills better when the sessions are repeated throughout their day.  Reward your dog for behaviors you want to see repeated.

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