Walking a dog with a hearing impediment requires extra attention to ensure that the dog will stay safe and helps avoid confusion. A little bit of extra caution and enthusiasm can go a long way when a dog can’t properly hear you or his or her surroundings.
Many owners rely on verbal commands and tones to let a dog know what to do. Clearly, this poses a problem for deaf dogs. When you can communicate with your dog, a new door is opened and the bond grows stronger. Your dog won’t be so confused, and your point will get across much more successfully. Any sign can be given meaning. For instance, many owners will teach a dog to sit by simply pointing downward with their index finger. People may do this subconsciously even if the dog has excellent hearing to reinforce the verbal cue. Some dogs have been trained to respond correctly to up to fifty different signs! If this works for you, and you can teach your dog to respond to your own unique commands, that is what’s important. Just remember to share your signs with other people, including anyone else who will be walking your dog. This will save some frustration and help keep your dog safe.
Attracting a deaf dog’s attention can be a challenge. If the dog isn’t looking at you, one way to make him or her pay attention is to gently tug on the leash or wiggle it back and forth. This motion will be different and the dog will investigate. Some people will stomp one foot and the vibrations on the ground can signal the dog. Others have tried vibrating collars that will gently vibrate at the push of a button. If you choose to touch the dog directly, a soft tap on the same spot each time will keep from startling the dog unnecessarily. That is one of the main things to be aware of when walking with a deaf dog--he or she will startle easily. It can be a bird or someone walking too closely, including you. When you can’t hear people approaching, suddenly they are popping out of nowhere. Try to make the dog feel as secure as possible by not adding to the stimulation and to draw attention to new things before they are right next to the dog.
To reinforce positive behavior, treats are a favorite of many owners since their dogs can’t hear praise. Another common sign of a job well done is clapping your hands and smiling. A dog will learn this is a good sign and that he or she has accomplished something you approve of. For negative behavior, many owners will frown and give a thumbs-down sign. As long as you are consistent, you will give your dog the chance to catch on and understand you. By keeping your dog close and trying other means of communication, you can help your dog enjoy the benefits of a walk even without the advantage of hearing.
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By Callie T.