From: Lindsay Patten firstname.lastname@example.org
welcoming message from the deafdog mailing list
Introduction to Training a Deaf
There is no one universal best way to
train a dog. The best training method to use depends on both the dog and the trainer. You
will have to choose a training method with which you are comfortable, and which is matched
to your dog's traits and personality. With that in mind, we will consider several issues
which you should consider while designing a training program for your deaf dog..
Issues In Training Of Deaf Dogs
There are a number of special issues
that should be considered when designing a training program for a deaf dog. The fact that
your dog can't hear you has a number of implications: it means that you have to use hand
signals rather than verbal commands; it means you need an alternative method for getting
and keeping your dog's attention; and it means you'll need to find a substitute for the
verbal praise and feedback which are components of most canine training programs.
Most dogs will learn hand signals as quick or quicker than verbal commands so using hand
signals is not a major issue. The particular signal you use for a command is not terribly
important to the success of your training effort, but there are a few considerations to
keep in mind: be consistent, make sure that you and all the other members of your
household, use the same signal; signals which are bold, distinct, and visible from a
distance will work best.
Many people favor using standard American Sign Language (ASL); this has the advantage of
opening a doorway to the human deaf community, and also providing some standardization
with other deaf dog owners. If you do use ASL you will likely have to adapt some of the
signals to ensure that they are easy for your dog to see and distinguish, and so that you
can perform them while you're holding a leash or are otherwise encumbered.
An alternative or complementary approach is to use the standard obedience signals that are
used in training hearing dogs before moving on to purely verbal commands. These have the
advantage of having been designed specifically for dogs, and if you wish, you can start
with these signals and then transition to ASL once your dog has the command down pat.
Attention is one of the most important and difficult aspects of training a deaf dog. There
are numerous training exercises which will help keep your dog's attention focused on you;
but they all take time to be effective, especially in the face of distractions. When
starting out you will need a way to keep your dog's attention and interest during training
sessions, and food can be very useful in this regard. Although some trainers disparage the
use of food as a reward, it can be of particular value when working with a deaf dog.
A second facet of attention is distractions; because deaf dogs tend to be visually
oriented, and because you can't regain their attention verbally, introducing distractions
into your training program should be done very slowly and under controlled conditions.
When starting out your training program, try to eliminate as many distractions as
possible. As your training progresses, and response to commands becomes automatic, you can
slowly increase the number of distractions. It will take some time before you can expect
your dog to consistently obey commands in the face of distractions such as other dogs. Be
patient, although your dog may learn new commands quickly it will take much longer to
become "distraction proof" and moving too quickly will only result in
Verbal praise and feedback are important components of most canine training programs and
they need to be augmented* with
alternative methods when adapting a program for use with a deaf dog. The largest challenge
in teaching a new command is communicating to your dog what you want it to do. To do so
you need a way to tell your dog when it is doing the right thing and when it is straying
from the desired behavior. With hearing dogs, verbal praise and warnings are the most
common means of giving feedback; if you simply drop these from a training method it will
be hard for your dog to know what you want, frustrating for you when your dog doesn't do
what you want, and in the end a negative experience for both of you. Developing a hand
signal for Good! can help out tremendously.
* * * * *
* Augmented rather
than replaced because it is still a good idea to talk to and praise your dog verbally.
Talking in a bright cheery voice will result in a bright cheery facial expression and
posture that you dog will recognize. [Credit: Warrick Wilson] back