Whether your puppy was born deaf or lost her hearing as the result of an accident or illness, she can still be molded into an obedient, happy companion. Training a deaf puppy is similar to training a puppy with full hearing, although it does require more training and flexibility. The greatest challenge in training a deaf puppy is getting and holding her attention. Establishing a focus command will make her much easier to train.
Decide what type of command you will use to train your puppy. A deaf puppy cannot hear a verbal command, making hand signals the most effective type of command to use.
Slip a collar and leash on the puppy before each training session. Not only do the collar and leash keep the puppy within range and make her easier to control, but your close presence provides her an extra measure of security in unfamiliar situations.
Teach the puppy to focus on you with a “watch me” command. Stand in front of the puppy with a treat in one hand, and tug gently on the leash with the other hand to get her attention. Hold the treat in front of her nose, let her sniff it, then pull your hand back up toward your eyes. As soon as the puppy makes eye contact, reward her with the treat. This teaches the puppy that focusing on you results in a tasty reward. Repeat the “watch me” exercise repeatedly during your training sessions, and soon the puppy will look to you for direction without fail.
Add a “good dog” sign to your puppy’s training vocabulary. The “good dog” sign shows the dog she did the command correctly, and serves as a release at the end of an exercise. Give the puppy the “watch me” command; as soon as she looks at you, clap your hands and give her a small treat or a pat to indicate she did a good job.
Work on the “sit” command once the puppy is consistently focusing on you. Step in front of the puppy, hold a treat in your left hand, and point your right hand straight down to the ground with your palm open and facing the puppy. Move your left hand back from her nose toward her ears to encourage her to sit, while bending your right hand at the elbow and sweeping your palm up to your shoulder. Give the puppy the treat as soon as she sits, and clap to release. Repeat the treat and sweeping motion until the puppy consistently sits as soon as you give the command.
Train the “down” command once the puppy sits without issue. Instruct the puppy to sit, and hold a treat in your left hand. Extend your right arm straight out with the palm facing the floor, and move your arm down toward the floor as you move your left hand down toward the puppy’s feet. Release her with a clap as soon as she lies down to get the treat, and give her the treat. Work on the down command frequently, until she lies down without the aid of a treat.
Sit the puppy on your left side, and hold the leash in your right hand. Hold a small treat in front of her nose with your left hand, and sweep your arm up as you take a few steps forward. Stop after five or six steps, and ask the puppy to sit, rewarding her as soon as she does. This upward sweep of the arm functions as the “heel” command, and teaches the puppy how to walk calmly by your side and sit as soon as you stop.
Instruct the puppy to “stay,” simply with a hand in front of her nose. Hold a treat in your right palm, and place it directly in front of her face. Hold your hand still as you step away from the puppy, rewarding her only when she sits still. Your palm creates a visual barrier, while the treat teaches her to stay put in order to receive her reward. Extend the distance by a few steps per training session until the puppy stays as you walk across the room.
Ask the puppy to sit, and step directly in front of her. Take a few steps back, and excitedly pat your legs to encourage the puppy to run toward you. Reward the puppy with a treat when she comes to you, clapping to indicate a job well done. Repeat the “come” command until the puppy runs eagerly to you at a distance of 10 to 15 paces.
Never spank your puppy when she misbehaves. Physical punishment is ineffective and teaches the puppy to fear human contact.
Keep training sessions to about 15 minutes. Puppies have short memories, and bored puppies don't retain much information.
Try not to accidentally sneak up on the puppy. Deaf puppies are easily startled and may snap if frightened. If the puppy is facing away from you and you need to get her attention, gently tap your foot on the floor. She will feel the vibration and turn to investigate the source.
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