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Training and Caring for a Deaf Dog

WebMD discusses how you can train and communicate with a deaf dog using hand signals.

How can I tell if my dog is deaf? continued...

"Make sure they can't see your movement, or feel any vibrations, like you stomping on the floor," Newstead says. "And try different ranges of sound. Blow a whistle for the high range, clap your hands loudly for mid-range, and hit a drum for low range. Many mostly deaf dogs still have some limited hearing."

And if your dog suddenly seems to be ignoring you, or doesn't come running when food is poured into his bowl, you might want to test his hearing as well, Newstead says.

Pet owners who want conclusive evidence can ask for a test called the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response procedure, or BAER. During this test, electrodes are placed under the dog's scalp to read the brain's response to a series of clicks directed into each ear.

Can deaf dogs be trained?

Although it was once believed that deaf dogs could not be trained, many people that love and care for them say deaf dog training isn't difficult. Dick Russell, a dog trainer near Baton Rouge, La., has worked with more than 100 deaf dogs in the past 20 years.

"It's as easy to train a deaf dog as a hearing dog," Russell says. "The only difference is you use hand signals instead of verbal commands."

The secret, he says, is having a clear hand signal for each action you want the dog to learn. It doesn't matter what they are, he says, as long as you're consistent.

Russell says it's also a myth that deaf dogs are more aggressive. He says any dog, if startled, could bite. He tells clients with deaf puppies to wake them up repeatedly, with a tasty treat in hand. Soon they'll associate being awakened, even if startled, with something good. And if you don't want to startle a sleeping dog, stomp your foot near them or bump the couch or bed they're sleeping on. The vibration usually awakens them, he says.

Other than that, Russell says, people really don't need to make a lot of special adjustments for their deaf pets. And Strain said hearing aids are a waste of time for most deaf dogs.

"Hearing aids only amplify sound, and if there are no nerve cells left to facilitate hearing, amplifying the sound won't help," he says. "Besides, most dogs hate having anything in their ears."

How do I keep my deaf dog safe?

Of course, there are some common-sense steps owners of a deaf dog should take, experts say. The first is keeping the dog on a leash or in a fenced yard for the pet's safety. A deaf dog can't hear a car or other danger coming.

To keep track of your dog, put a bell on her collar, Becker suggests. And put a tag on her that says "Deaf," along with your contact information.

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