Living with a deaf dog presents plenty of challenges, and one of the hardest is finding ways to communicate with him. He needs to follow the same rules as any other dog. Learning hand signals is even more important for a deaf dog since he won’t be able to hear shouted warnings, car horns or other signals if he puts himself in danger. While there is no official doggy hand signal language, teaching your pet signals that relate to the hand motions used to teach him each action can help make life easier for both of you.
Since you can’t verbally praise your dog, you need a way to let him know that he’s done a good job. Some trainers use the American Sign Language word “good” (placing the fingers of your right hand against your lips then into the palm of your left hand), but for most people it’s even easier to use a thumbs up. Work with your dog repeatedly by giving the signal immediately followed by a treat. He’ll quickly understand that the thumbs up means good things.
With your dog on a leash, hold a treat in your hand close to you and in front of him. Move your hand from his nose to above and slightly behind his head. He’ll be watching the treat and as he looks up to see where it goes he’ll automatically move into a sit, though he may need a bit of guidance at first. Soon the motion of your hand coming up from your side to shoulder height becomes his signal to sit.
Keep your pet on a leash in a sitting position. Hold a treat in the palm of your hand. Start by his nose and move your hand down and slightly away from him, with the palm facing down. Don’t let him stand up and walk to it. This way he’ll end up lying down to reach the treat. Once he gets the idea, the sweep of your hand from a high point to low with the palm facing the ground will signal "down" to your dog.
Extend your hand towards your dog with the palm facing him, as you might to signal a person to stop. Once you’ve done this, don’t let him move or get up until you release him from the stay. Keep him on a leash and if he gets up, put him back where he was and repeat the signal. Don’t make him stay too long or you may have trouble with him, but once he has the idea he should be able to manage to stay several minutes in a sit and a bit longer in a down.
When your dog has done what you’ve asked, you need a way to signal him that he’s free to go, especially when he’s been in a stay. Raise both hands to shoulder height and wave them around while giving your pet a big smile. You may need to physically encourage him to move at first, but he’ll quickly understand that this signal means he’s free to go.
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