Training and Caring for a Deaf Dog (cont.)

Can deaf dogs be trained?

Although it was once believed that deaf dogs could not be trained, many people that love and care for them say deaf dog training isn't difficult. Dick Russell, a dog trainer near Baton Rouge, La., has worked with more than 100 deaf dogs in the past 20 years.

"It's as easy to train a deaf dog as a hearing dog," Russell says. "The only difference is you use hand signals instead of verbal commands."

The secret, he says, is having a clear hand signal for each action you want the dog to learn. It doesn't matter what they are, he says, as long as you're consistent.

Russell says it's also a myth that deaf dogs are more aggressive. He says any dog, if startled, could bite. He tells clients with deaf puppies to wake them up repeatedly, with a tasty treat in hand. Soon they'll associate being awakened, even if startled, with something good. And if you don't want to startle a sleeping dog, stomp your foot near them or bump the couch or bed they're sleeping on. The vibration usually awakens them, he says.

Other than that, Russell says, people really don't need to make a lot of special adjustments for their deaf pets. And Strain said hearing aids are a waste of time for most deaf dogs.

"Hearing aids only amplify sound, and if there are no nerve cells left to facilitate hearing, amplifying the sound won't help," he says. "Besides, most dogs hate having anything in their ears."