Training Deaf Dogs.


It is often assumed that deaf dogs are too difficult to train and keep as pets. However, they can live perfectly normal lives with a sympathetic owner. This Holidays4Dogs article discusses the subject of living with deaf dogs, including practical and training considerations.

dog sitting, pet sitting

No, we’re not talking about selectively deaf dogs in this article! Some dogs may be born deaf and the condition is a common in white coloured animals such as boxers and dalmatians. Merle to merle crosses – such as border collies – also often produce deaf puppies.

Some dogs may develop hearing loss due to trauma, or disease. In addition, as dogs grow older, many begin to lose their sense of hearing.

Hand signals.

Dogs can learn hand signals quite easily. In fact, research as shown that dogs respond better to visual cues than they do to verbal ones.

There are still many things to consider before taking on a deaf dog, but we now know that with the right adjustments, they can still become reliable and loving family pets. Training a deaf dog is not really that much different from training any dog.

A deaf dog should be socialised and cared for in just the same way as a normal dog. There is no reason why a deaf dog should be any more unpredictable than a hearing dog.

Teaching hand signals is relatively easy, but it must be started somewhere enclosed and with no other distractions – such as a quiet living room.  Clicker training won’t be an option. However, you could pair a thumbs up signal, for example, with the delivery of a treat as the principle remains the same.


Probably the most challenging aspect to owning a non-hearing dog is off-lead exercise and recall. It is very difficult to signal to a dog that is not looking at you and even more difficult if he is already half way across a field. This is why teaching your dog hand signals close up will pay dividends. It is also useful to teach a deaf dog to frequently ‘check in’ with their owner when on a walk. (This is useful for all, not just the hard of hearing).

Training the deaf dog to come back is just the same as it is for any young pup. Start small and build the distance and distractions up gradually. If you are in any doubt as to whether your dog, deaf or otherwise, will come back to you – especially near traffic, or amongst livestock – keep them on the lead. Retractable leads are useful for dogs that cannot hear, as this gives the dog some freedom, while keeping them safe.

Rather than a whistle or verbal cue, you will need to teach your dog that a particular hand signal means come back. This could be standing with both arms open, or waving one arm in the air – something that will be seen over long distances.

It is entirely up to you what hand signals you use when training the deaf dog; some people use official signs adapted from U.K. human standards, others make up their own. The most important thing is that each sign is clear and distinctive from another.

Other considerations when living with deaf dogs.

A deaf dog may suffer from separation anxiety more than a hearing dog, particularly in circumstances where you leave him alone and he has not seen you leave. Teaching a dog to be on his own for short periods should be no different to teaching any dog.

In fact, with every aspect of training the deaf dog, positive reinforcement and a hands-off approach are essential.

You can still talk to your dog, however. There is nothing wrong with giving a verbal command at the same time as a visual one. Your dog will still notice the facial expressions created as you speak.

It is entirely up to you which hand signals you use when training the deaf dog. Some people use official signs adapted from U.K. human standards, others make up their own. The most important thing is that each sign is clear and distinctive from another.

It can be frustrating exercise, at times, teaching a hearing puppy. Therefore, support from a knowledgeable trainer may be help you and your pooch to progress.


Many people who live with deaf dogs say bond they have with their pet can be deeper than it might be with a hearing dog – particularly among rescues.

There may be a few challenges when it comes to living with and training a deaf dog. However, it is also very rewarding to see your deaf dog blossoming into a happy hound – living a normal, healthy and sociable life.