Desensitizing a Deaf Dog so he doesn't Startle

To get a deaf dog used to being touched unexpectedly, begin by walking up behind the dog when he isn't looking. Gently touch the dog, then immediately put a treat in the dog's mouth after he turns around. The dog quickly associates the treat with being touched. This will keep him from startling and possibly snapping or biting. If your dog responds aggressively, do NOT give the treat. Ignore the behavior and try again at a later time. Eventually you'll get the right response and can give the treat. Over time the dog will learn it's OK when he's touched unexpectedly, and not have a fearful response.

You'll want to teach your deaf dog to wake easily in response to a gentle touch. First place your hand in front of the sleeping dog's nose. Let him smell you are near. Then lightly touch the dog on the shoulder or back - very lightly - barely touch a few hairs. Then gently pet the dog with a couple of fingers, and eventually your entire hand. Most dogs will awaken at some point and they open their eyes, see their owner's smiling face, and perhaps even get a treat they will associate being awakened with a gentle, positive experience.

Getting Your Deaf Dog's Attention

Obviously, clicker training isn't going to work too well! However, indoors, if your dog is facing away from you, one of the simplest things to do is to wait until he turns around. Also he may feel the vibrations of your approach and turn around. If not, you can try blowing on the dog's back or head or touch him lightly.

If the dog is across a room, try stomping your foot on the floor so he can feel the vibrations and turn around. If your dog is a Dog, or another more independent breed, unless he is separation anxious he may not CARE that you entered the room. That doesn't mean he didn't hear your stomp, just that it is not affecting his world RIGHT NOW. You can also waive your arms and try to attract his attention, or turn a light switch on and off, but in the end, he will look when he wants to. If you really must get his attention - go get him.

Outdoors during daytime, you can also try tossing a toy or ball near your dog to get his attention. Outdoors at night you can attract your dog's attention by flipping a light on and off. Some people use a flashlight or laser pointer - be careful not to point the laser pointer in the dog's eyes however..

Some owners use a vibrating collar to get the dog's attention. There are several vibrating collars available and there is a good comparison and price list available here.

Where are you????

Make sure to let your deaf dog know what you are doing and that you are leaving. Many deaf dogs develop separation anxiety because he work up and you were gone. If he's sleeping or in another room, make sure you tap him lightly so he can see you leave. A deaf dog that wakes up, or turns around and finds you gone, may become anxious. A dog may become anxiousenough to destroy the house looking for you!  Also, you may have trouble finding the dog because he'll go snuggle wander off somewhere and not hear your calls.  Small bells attached to his collar can aid in knowing where he is at all times.


When supervising and correcting a deaf dog you don't have the luxury of yelling commands across the room. If the Dog is counter surfing, getting into the trash or digging you will have to go to the dog to make the correction. Of course, you probably should do this with ANY dog, not just deaf ones (or Dogs that are selectively deaf!). However, with a deaf dog (one that really is) you'll make sure you ALWAYS catch him in the act and then do the minimal correction necessary to get the point across. Going overboard is not good with any dog, but particularly with a deaf dog because he will be more likely to be confused as to what caused the correction. It is infinitely better to use positive reinforcement as much as possible and keep negative corrections to a minimum.A deaf dog is more likely to become aggressive if he feels your corrections are confusing or unfair so firm, but gentle corrections are even more important.

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