Training Tips & Info


byAriel O’Brien, Trainer


Patricia Belt, Trainer

You have just adopted your first little deaf puppy.  What you do in the next few days, weeks and months will be the most important time for you and your deaf puppy. It
will set their learning and ability to live in a hearing world for the rest of their lives.Below are several simple training tips you can use to get your deaf puppy/dog off on the right paws, making their transition into a“hearing world”  easier.

Start  immediately to use wide hand gestures when “talking”.No need to use any specific hand signals at this point; you just want to get the puppy to
recognize hand movement. Use animated facial expressions and look directly at the puppy.
Purchase a  leash that you can buckle around your waist so that the puppy/dog is “tethered” to you at all times they are not asleep or in their crates. When
walking, pat the side of your leg to keep him focused on you. Smile, reward often and use a “thumbs up” for “good dog!”
Carry  treats, (dry puppy food or cheerios work great), around with you at ALL times. Every time the puppy/dog looks up at you, reward it with a treat, a smile, and a “thumbs up”.
Handling your  puppy is very important at a young age. To minimize the “startle” reflex, touch from behind when the pup is unaware, then give a smile, reward and
a “thumbs up”. Startling is natural for any dog whether hearing or not. It is how they perceive the startle. Do the same thing if the pup is sleeping. Use
your index finger and tap their shoulder lightly. When the pup wakes up smile, reward and “thumbs up”.
Blowing on the back of their neck to get their attention is a gentle way of working on startle reflexes when they are asleep.  When they are awake , gently touch their rump from behind, or pull their tail.
Startling is one of the reasons breeders are encouraged to euthanize a deaf puppy/dog due to the fallacy that they are more likely to bite when startled. Early training to desensitize them to being startled is essential. As long as it is a pleasant experience for them the chance that they will “bite” when they are startled becomes almost a non
issue. You must realize that any dog can bite when startled.
Socialization for a deaf puppy/dog is just as important as it is for a hearing puppy/dog. Take the puppy/dog with you everywhere you go that you possibly can. Going to a mall or the pet store is a good place to find lots of people that will want to pet your puppy/dog. Who can resist a little puppy, especially when that puppy is an
adorable Dalmatian puppy? Dalmatians are the single most recognizable breed on earth. Have lots of treats with you and when people ask if they can pet your puppy, ask them to give the puppy/dog a treat first. This will show the puppy/dog that by allowing people to pet them, they get lots of good rewards.
Exposure to every kind of strange object you can think of is very important for a new puppy. Rolling umbrellas, paper bags, brooms that might touch their feet. Trainers will tell you to introduce your puppy to 100 different things in 30 days. This is the same for a hearing or a deaf puppy. The more strange objects they see and get used to, the less chance they will run into something that will scare them.
All dogs are visual animals rather than vocal animals. They que off of your body language more than your voice. That is why the top handlers in agility often work silently with their dogs. Your deaf puppy/dog will watch your body language and take their cue’s from what you are telling them through your own movements rather than your voice.
Touch”; will be the single most  important signal you will teach your deaf puppy/dog. It is a very easy command to teach and they learn it almost instantly. Put a small soft treat between your middle and ring finger and hold your hand, palm out, towards them. As soon as they touch your hand with their nose, give them the treat. Use this for your first recall sign or even in place of your traditional “come” hand signal. You can play games using touch with your puppy/dog and the “touch” hand signal,  teaching them to weave between your legs and even go in circles around you.
Watch Me” is just as important to teach your deaf dog as touch is. You want them to be checking in with you ever 15-20 seconds and certainly never more than every 30 seconds. This will be a life saver to you and your deaf dog if that unthinkable ever happens and they get away from you when outside the house and yard. Start by taking a treat (something high value to them: hot dogs, string cheese, meatballs etc). Put the treat to their nose and then bring the treat up to between your eyes. When they are looking in your eyes give the thumbs up and give them the treat. Once you can get them to “Watch Me” 99% of the time by just putting your forefinger between your eyes and they will look at you. Then you can move this same exercise to teach distractions. Put treats in both hands, show them a hand but do not give them the treat. Close your hand over the treat and put your arm out to your side at shoulder level. The instant they look from your hand to your eyes, give them the thumbs up sign and give them the treat from the other hand. This is also the beginning of teaching the “Leave It” sign. We will discuss  “Leave It” a little later.
Teaching come at night when it is dark outside; first make sure they have the “touch” sign down pat. It won’t take you more than 10 minutes to teach this sign to
them. Clip them to a long lead at night and let them go outside. Flick the porch light off and on several times and gently start reeling them in on the line to you. As always, when they come back to you treat them, treat them, treat them. It does not have to always be a food treat. An ear scratch, kisses and hugs and lots of back scratching is also a great treat for them. Too many food treats and they start to get chubby. As time goes on and they respond quickly to your hand signals, you will cut back on the food treats and reward with the thumbs up and love instead of food. You should always be giving them the “thumbs up” sign for whenever they have done something correctly. You can never give them too much love and affection. Do not let them out in the yard at night off leash (if you have a large yard) until you have a very strong recall with
 I have always taught my deafies these commands using the traditional obedience hand signals. I have never found it necessary to substitute another sign for these commands.
Teaching Puppy Push Up’s; This little exercise teaches muscle memory for your dog and it is something you should do throughout their lives to keep them limber. Put your dog in a sit, using the sit command. Then, go to a down, using the down command, and back to a sit. Eventually you will be able to throw in a stand command and a drop command. You should do these at least 5 times each time, and 4-5 times a day. To begin with you will have to lure them into each position with a treat but eventually they will go smoothly from one position to another. Make sure you are always giving the thumbs up to them before you treat so they know they have done it right.
Teaching “Leave it”: As I discussed earlier with the “Watch Me” sign, “Leave it” is just an extension of watch me. Once you have the treats in your hand and you move them out to your side, always changing up which hand you have the treats in, and they are looking back to you immediately move on to the next step. Show them the treat in your open hand and when they go to take the treat, close your hand over the treat and do a straight hand in front of their face in a downward slashing motion. The hand and the motion will be your “Leave It” hand signal. Each time you show them a treat in your open hand immediately do the hand signal and close your hand with the treat in it so they cannot take the treat. When they get to where they look at you instead of trying to take the treat, you can move on to putting a treat on the floor giving the hand signal for “Leave it”  Before they have a chance to grab the treat off the floor, cover the treat with your foot. You don’t actually have to step on the treat, just put your foot
over it so they can’t get the treat. Always follow this action with the “Leave it” hand signal.  When they leave the treat you have shown them, or put on the floor, and look back to you, give the thumbs up and give them a treat from the other hand. Never let them take the  treat from the floor. Once they have the hang of the hand signal for “Leave it,”use it for anything you don’t want them to have; toys, people, other dogs,  cats, squirrels, birds….anything.
Loose leash healing.-You are going to practice healing just as you would with a hearing dog. You want them to look at you often and when they do, you are going
to give them the thumbs up and give them a treat. Additionally, as you are walking along, pat the side of your leg so they know to walk there beside you. If they get ahead of you, stop, and either wait for them to come back, or simply turn, and go the other way. Pretty soon they will realize if they want to keep on going forward, they must walk beside you. Make sure when you are out for a walk that you also practice the sit command so they know when you stop walking they need to sit beside you.
Teaching the “Off” command or not to jump up on people: There is nothing more frustrating for a visitor than to come to your house only to have your dog jumping all over them when they are trying to get in the door. There are many ways to train “Off”, but I have found the most effective way is to give them a hand signal that is the palm of your hand moving away from your body and towards the dog. At the same time, take their collar and push them down to either standing or sitting on the floor. NEVER pet them or give them attention if they are jumping up on you. When they have all four paws on the floor, give them the thumbs up and pet them. Some trainers say to turn your back on them or knee them in the chest to get them down. I have never found that turning my back on a dog that is jumping up on me really works all that effectively and, sticking your knee in their chest can hurt them.

It is very important to get them into a formal training class as soon as possible.  Look for dog training facilities in your area, not Pet Smart or Petco.  All dog training facilities are either affiliated with either the AKC (American Kennel Club) or the UKC (United Kennel Club).

Always use lots and lots of praise , big hugs for them, and lots of smiles and thumbs up for your dog when training. Clapping when they have done well (even if they
can’t hear you), also shows them you are pleased with what they have done. Remember, Dalmatians live to please their humans. It is what makes them happy so
show that you are pleased with them.

You now have many tools for training a deaf dog. These simple tools will allow you to train your deaf dog for everything you will learn in basic obedience. It is
strongly urged that you enroll in a basic obedience class at your local dog training facility or pet store. Having an obedient dog is having a happy dog and
happy owner. Dogs need rules and boundaries just like we do. Those boundaries
will keep them safe and happy for many, many, years to come.