How to Train a Deaf Dog

3 min read
Jan 26, 2022

Whether a dog has been born deaf or becomes deaf because of an illness or injury, a lack of hearing does not mean you can’t train him. In fact, because a deaf dog is less aware of his environment, it’s even more important to train him to follow basic commands so you can keep him safe. While it may seem difficult, it’s actually easier than you think, and can be very important in a dog's senior years.

Before you start training, you’ll need a few basic tools. The first two, vibrating collars and flashlights, will help you get your dog’s attention.

Vibrating Collar

Vibrating collars are a great tool for training deaf dogs as it’s an easy way to get their attention no matter where they are. Be sure not to confuse these with shock collars that will hurt your dog when you press a button.


Another way to get your deaf dog’s attention is with a flashlight. Keep in mind that this may not work in bright lighting and can become more of a distraction if your dog wants to chase the beam. A key-chain LED flashlight may work best for dog training to prevent these problems.

Healthy Dog Treats

No matter what you’re using to get your dog’s attention, you’ll want to have healthy treats on hand to reward them during training sessions. If you’re worried about your dog gaining too much weight, you may want to use some of their regular food during sessions and then feed less at mealtimes.

Training Tips 

Next let’s go over some quick training tips that can work for every dog, but are especially important when working with dogs that are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Be Consistent with Signs

Whether you choose to use American Sign Language (ASL) or specific hand signals designed for training dogs, be consistent. When the same sign has different meanings or you have multiple signs for one action, your dog may become confused and frustrated.

Have a Partner

Having a partner that knows your dog well can help them learn faster. They can help guide the dog’s body into the right position while you use both hands to sign and give rewards.

Be Patient

It is important to be patient with your dog. This is even truer if you’re adopting an adult dog who hasn’t been trained previously as he may not understand what’s expected of him. Don’t get angry with him and allow him to learn at his own pace.

Keep Sessions Short

Dogs naturally have short attention spans, particularly when young. For that reason, you’ll want to keep each training session as short as possible. Most sessions should be less than 20 minutes at a time, and you may even keep them to five minutes or less at the beginning.

How to Train a Deaf Dog 

Now that you have the tools and tips, let’s get into the three steps you need to train a deaf dog.

1. Teach Your Reward System

The first thing you need to do is let your dog know how they’ll be rewarded. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Vibrate their collar
  • Blink on the flashlight
  • Give a special sign - such as a thumb’s up

To start, give the signal and offer a treat. Soon, your dog will associate the signal with getting a treat. From there, you’ll start to get your dog to work for a signal and subsequent a treat.

2. Give a Command

Start with a simple command such as “sit.” Give the sign you determined and wait for your dog to respond. Your partner can help gently guide your dog’s hindquarters to the floor if needed. Repeat the sign frequently when first teaching since they need repetition to learn.

During your first few sessions, you’ll only want to work on one command at a time. As your dog learns more, you can cover more commands in each session to keep them occupied for longer.

3. Reward Progress

As soon as your dog moves towards doing what you asked, signal that they’ve done the correct thing and follow it with a treat. Every bit of progress should be rewarded initially.

Then, as your dog starts to learn the commands, increase the amount of time between the signal, the treat and the number of times you expect them to perform a command correctly before giving them a treat.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.