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How to Train a Deaf Dog: A Comprehensive Guide for Success | Pupford

September 29th, 2023

Filed under Training

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Whether youSign up here! r dog has lost his hearing due to age or illness or was simply born without this particular sense, he deserves to live his best life. Learning how to train a deaf dog is key to giving them the best life possible!

And to ensure he feels fulfilled and connected while always staying safe, you need to provide him with basic training that's easy for him to understand and respond to. Communicating with and training a deaf dog shouldn't be any more complicated than with a hearing dog. We show you how in this comprehensive guide.

Deafness in dogs does not limit their cognitive, emotional, or social abilities. In addition to their keen sense of smell, good eyesight, and other skills, dogs have complex and varied body language, including many postures, actions, and facial expressions.

Moreover, when properly stimulated, deaf dogs can develop a better sense of sight and smell, compensating to some extent for their hearing loss.

Communicating with a deaf dog might sound complicated and overwhelming, and because of this, sadly, many deaf dogs are euthanized at birth. However, deaf dogs can have equally productive and enjoyable lives as those who can hear, and it only requires a limited amount of modifications on the parent's part.

To communicate with a deaf dog, you can use hand signals, the rump tap, or the leash signal.

If your dog has suffered a hearing loss or you have rescued a new dog or puppy with hearing loss, we'll explore various communication methods and techniques to help you with your pup. This article will cover the following:

  • How can you tell if your dog is deaf?
  • Types of dog deafness
  • Communicating with a deaf dog
  • How to keep your deaf dog safe
  • Can deaf dogs be trained?
  • How to train your deaf dog


keep your deaf dog safe

If you're reading this article, it could be that you just got a new dog or pup that appears to be deaf or that the dog you already have is now showing behavior that suggests hearing loss.

There are several causes of deafness in dogs. Most deafness occurs as a result of old age. Some puppies are born deaf. And dogs can also go deaf due to trauma to the ear or chronic ear infections.

Let's look at ways to identify if your dog is deaf or might be going deaf. Here are the main ways to know if a dog is deaf:

  • Response level to noises
  • Deaf noise test
  • BAER testing

Let's look at each one below. 👇

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If your pup has stopped responding when you're calling them or pouring food into their bowl, it might signify that they are at least partially deaf.

Other ways are ringing the doorbell, squeaking a toy, or clapping your hands. When your dogs can see you, they tend to be able to understand a lot of things you are trying to say, so sometimes it might take a little time to figure out that your dog is deaf.


If you suspect your dog might be deaf, there is an easy way to test this to make sure. First, pick a moment when your dog is not looking at you and cannot feel any vibrations (like you walking towards them on the floor) and then make a noise behind them.

Try not to startle them, as dogs don't respond well to that. Then, gradually increase the level of the sound you make. You want to determine if your dog is entirely deaf or partially deaf; therefore, it's wise to try several sound ranges.


Ask your veterinarian for a BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) if you want conclusive evidence. This is a diagnostic test in which the dog is fitted with headphones and electrodes to read the dog's brain response to several clicks that target each ear. The feedback provides a waveform that gives a highly accurate assessment of the dog's hearing loss.

BAER testing is not widely used for household pets because more simplistic tests quickly reveal hearing loss. However, breeders commonly use it to check their dogs' hearing before breeding. This is because many breeds (notably Dalmatians) are prone to congenital deafness, and testing before breeding helps limit passing this trait on to future generations.


dalmations have a 30 percent chance of being born deaf


When a pup is born deaf, it is considered congenital deafness. This isn't something the dog gradually developed or is caused due to (for example) a chronic ear infection; this is when they have been deaf since birth. Some breeds have higher chances of congenital deafness than others.

For example:

  • The Dalmatian has a 30 percent chance of being born deaf in either one ear or in both ears, which is very high.

Not only Dalmatians are more likely to be born deaf, but other breeds such as:

  • Australian Cattle Dogs
  • English Setters
  • Bull Terriers
  • Catahoula Leopards
  • Parson Russells
  • Whippets

These breeds also have a higher number of incidents of deafness. However, researchers aren't exactly sure what causes congenital deafness and why some dogs are more likely to be born with it. Scientists assume that the lack of pigment cells in white dogs causes impaired hearing.

BAER is often used to test puppies who may suffer from coat-color-related deafness. Because they cannot hear, they usually follow the lead of other puppies and have trouble developing proper bite inhibition because they can't hear the yelps from their littermates when they bite too hard.


guide to deaf dogs

Of course, any dog can become deaf or partially deaf during its lifetime. Causes of this could be toxic chemicals, untreated ear infections, aging, injury, and some drugs. However, dogs that go deaf later in life seem to have little trouble adapting to their condition.


When the hearing loss is gradual, you can add hand signals associated with verbal cues. The dog will learn the hand signals much quicker than without hearing assistance.

If the hearing loss is sudden, you will have to work much faster to teach the new communication method. The new training process would go more smoothly if your dog were already well-trained before becoming deaf.

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Be cautious about where and when to let your dog off the leash. For example, a deaf dog cannot hear an approaching vehicle near a road.

Also, consider that deaf dogs have fewer tools to judge the intentions of other dogs and humans. For example, when playing with other dogs, they won't pick up growls, barks, and other signs that hearing pups can use alongside body language to determine how the interaction is going.

You should always supervise children and dogs when they are playing together. Teach your children to respect the dog's space and understand that there can be an increased risk of startling a deaf dog, who could bite them.

You might want to indicate that your dog is deaf on its identification tags (or print the word "deaf" on its collar) along with your contact info. Then, should your dog get lost, whoever finds them will be better equipped to deal with them. If getting lost appears to be a potential issue, electronic trackers are now available, and microchipping is also an option (and highly encouraged).


Be sure to tell everyone who may come into contact with your dog that they're deaf. Teach family members how to signal the dog before approaching. You may also want to consider putting a sign or sticker on your front door that asks visitors to take care when entering it.

Remind guests not to startle your pup by touching them on their heads while they're sleeping. Some dogs will nip if startled in this way, so a soft touch on the shoulder or rump can be safer and gentler.

You may want to teach your dog's hand signals to close friends or family members who often visit or interact with your dog. Not only will this help reinforce your dog's training, but it will also increase their trust in others.

dog eyes closed


If your dog has lost hearing, you will need to learn new ways to communicate with them besides verbal cues. We'll dive into specifics below, but know that making the transition to training a deaf dog takes some patience and extra work!


The answer to this question: Yes, absolutely deaf dogs can be trained!

It might be hard to believe, but there was a time not that long ago when the only treatment for deaf dogs was to put them down. Sadly, even nowadays, many dogs are euthanized as puppies when they turn out to be deaf, even though we've learned much about how to treat deaf dogs.

In fact, training deaf dogs isn't usually any more difficult than training hearing dogs. The only difference is that you use hand signals rather than spoken cues.


A lot of hearing dogs are trained with something called clicker training (also called marker training). This is a scientifically proven, easy method to teach your dog how to follow cues and be obedient.

Because your dog is deaf, it doesn't mean you can't offer them a similar training approach. Let's look at techniques for training deaf dogs below. ⤵️


Like most things in life, learning how to train a deaf dog or puppy just takes a little more creativity and patience than training a hearing dog. Here are some common ways to train a deaf dog or puppy:

  • Use hand signals
  • Teach that touch=good
  • Focus on luring/shaping/capturing behaviors
  • Use vibrations and stomping
  • Wave at them and other hand signals
  • Establish a good "check-in" behavior

Let's look at each training technique below. ⏬


When you train a dog with good hearing, you teach them several words corresponding to different actions. The same works for deaf dogs; only hand signals are used instead of verbal cues.

A clear hand signal for every action you want the dog to learn is essential. You can think up hand signals for your dog yourself; it doesn't matter what these look like as long as you are consistent.

training hand signals Infographic

You can also use American Sign Language to communicate with your pooch if you want. Eventually with practice, deaf dogs usually master about 20 hand signals.

First, of course, you must work your way up slowly and ensure they fully understand each one before moving on to the next. Start by teaching them to sit, come, no, stop, and down. But, again, the key to success is clear and consistent hand signals.

In addition to hand signals, use a visual marker that is attached to your body. For example, you can use a thumbs up or a flash of your hands (with your palm facing them, you can flash three fingers and hold your treat with the other two fingers).

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Since your dog won’t be able to respond to your voice, you will want to use touch as a way to get attention to your dog. This can also help them get less startled when touched.

One way to do this is by giving them a rump tap.


A pat on the rear end, or in other words, a "rump tap," is used as a signal for attention, similar to the request "look here" or the name of the dog if they weren't deaf. Here's how to teach a deaf dog the rump tap:

  1. The starting point is the dog looking away and being mildly distracted. As soon as you observe the dog going to look back at you, give them a quick and firm (but gentle!) double tap on the back (end). If you're unsure how much pressure to use, think of how you would tap someone on the shoulder and follow that lead.
  2. As soon as the dog's head faces yours, treat them.
  3. It would be best if you repeated this practice during several sessions.
  4. If you want to know if the dog understands, test them by tapping them when they're not looking. If eight out of ten times they respond correctly, they understand. If they don't (yet), keep practicing until they do.
  5. When the dog is successful, ask for their attention randomly, and you can gradually include several distractions.


training a deaf dog


With this, you will use a treat or another reward to lure your dog into the behavior you want to see.

You can start by holding a treat in your hand with a closed fist (but let them smell it), then slowly moving your hand so that their nose and body follow the treat until you get your dog into the position you want to see, then mark and reward.


Shaping breaks up behaviors into smaller steps. As you progress, you will get closer to the final step.

For example, if you were to teach your dog to roll, instead of trying to get them to roll all the way over from the start, you will first get them to lie on the ground, then on their side, ground, etc.


With capturing, you wait for your dog to offer the behavior you want to see, then mark and reward!

For example, if your dog offers a sit on its own, mark and reward right away. Below is an example of capturing when teaching your dog to nod "yes".


You can use this one only when you're inside a specific range and dealing with particular floors.

Due to the vibrations it brings along, stomping will get the dog's attention. It's just one of the many ways to get your dog's attention.

Since their other senses are more heightened, they will sense such things also a lot quicker than other dogs might.

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If your pup is out of reach and none of the above tricks work, you can try waving at them. Dogs have a wider field of peripheral vision than humans, so often, when we think they can't see us waving, they actually can. So here is how you go about teaching them:

  1. Start with a position where the dog is facing you.
  2. Wave at the dog with fingers spread wide and position your hand slightly above their vision field. The movement of your hand should catch their attention.
  3. Treat them as soon as they look at your hand (or towards your hand).
  4. Repeat this numerous times.
  5. After a while, position your hand in different directions; from the side, the back, or higher up. When they pay attention to your hand, treat them generously.
  6. Continue this practice in different situations and environments, treating them generously when they pay attention to your hand.
  7. You can try it at different distances as soon as the dog can ignore distractions and immediately give your hand attention. Remember that if you are further away, you might need to make your wave larger for them to see it.

There are times when you may have to touch a deaf dog physically to get its attention. The most common is when they start barking enthusiastically at something and are too focused to respond to visual signals.

a woman training a deaf dog | Pupford


Another essential skill to teach your deaf dog is recall. "Recall" means your dog comes when called. When working on longer-distance recalls, it should be within a fenced area, or you're using a long 30-foot leash for safety reasons.

However, at the beginning of your teaching, you want to start training in close proximity and a low-distraction setting. Make sure to use the same visual cues to let your dog know to come to you.


It is essential to establish the "check-in" behavior with your deaf dog. This means that your dog will look back at you periodically, making eye contact to "check-in." It shows an awareness that you and your dog are in tune with each other and that they understand the importance of maintaining visual contact with you.

It's essential that every time your dog looks at you, they are rewarded for it (in the period when they're still learning) to achieve this behavior.

In the beginning, you will have to find several ways to get their attention. However, if they eventually understand that looking in your direction is rewarded, they will start doing it automatically, in which case you have done your job.


a human touching a deaf dog to help get his attention | Pupford

A hearing-impaired best bud needs just as much physical and mental exercise—and love—as any other. So give your doggo enrichment opportunities and chances to walk, sniff, and use all of their talents.

Deaf dogs can have extraordinary lives and are just as able to communicate with us as non-deaf dogs; they simply have a slightly different way of getting there. If we are well-informed about how best to approach deaf dogs and how to teach them to communicate with us, we can develop the best possible relationship with them.

If you're looking for extra training videos and tips, be sure to sign up for the 100% free online course 30 Day Perfect Pup, taught by Zak George. Sign up here!

In the comment section, let us know which tips and tricks worked best for you and your deaf dog.

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