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In essence, training a deaf dog isn’t that much different to training a dog who can hear. Both require a considerate amount of time, effort and patience. Dogs learn through repetition. Although dogs can not understand English, they master commands through the reoccurrence of basic words (sit, come, stay etc). As a deaf dog can not hear, vocal cues are substituted for hand signals.

There are no right or wrong hand signals to use when training your deaf dog. Just ensure that the hand signals you decide to implement are clear and consistent. I personally, like to use hand signals that I know my dog can identify from a short-to-long distance away.

Firstly, it is important to distinguish a “Good” and “Bad” hand signal. For a “good” hand signal, I give my deaf dog, Cherry, a thumbs up with big excited smile. It is important to note that deaf dogs not only respond to hand signals but also to our body language and facial expressions. For a “bad” signal, I cross my arms over my chest (like I am playing Deal or No Deal), while giving Cherry a scorning look. I can gladly say I haven’t used this signal in a while. I used this mostly, when she was younger and caught her chewing on my shoes. In addition, to the “bad” signal I also have a signal for “no.” I use this signal when I disapprove of something.  For this cue, I simply shake my head and move my finger from left to right. Instances I commonly use this caution for is when Cherry jumps up on the couch or onto my bed.

From one deaf dog owner to another, don’t be surprised if your dog is as cheeky as Cherry. She can sense rather quickly whether or not she is in trouble. When this happens she will pretend she didn’t see me and will turn around before I can give her a “no” or “bad” signal. However, regardless of your dog’s antics, if you remain persistence and put in the time and effort to train your deaf dog, you will be undoubtedly rewarded with an obedience, loving and loyal companion.

Listed below are the steps I undertook to teach my deaf dog, Cherry, basic obedience training.


1. Position a tasty treat between your finger.
2. Bring this piece of food to your dog’s nose.
3. Slowly draw the treat to your face; in between your eyes.
4. As soon as your dog looks at it/you, smile excitedly, give your dog a ‘thumbs up,’ followed by the treat.

Try: Holding the treat at your eyes for a longer period of time before giving him/her the reward.

Note: If your dog is uncomfortable making eye contact, alter the ‘watch’ command to your nose or cheek. This technique will still encourage your dog to look to you. After a number of training sessions (and treats!), his/her confidence will increase and you will be able to attract his/her eyes to yours.


1. Capture your dog’s attention by showing him/her a tasty treat.
2. Move your hand around eagerly to get him/her interested.
3.  As you continue move the treat around, gesture with your free hand for your dog to “come” to you.
4. As soon as he/she approaches you, give your dog the treat and praise him/her with excitement.

Try: Gradually increasing the distance between you and your dog. Remember to reward and praise him/her each time he/she comes to you.

Note: If your dog does not come when he/she is signalled, consider securing a training line or rope to his/her collar. Once attached slowly draw him/her in while performing your “come” hand signal. As soon as he/she gets to you, be sure to reward your dog with praise and treats. It won’t be long before your dog realises that coming to you when commanded will result in rewards.


1. Position a treat close to your dog’s nose.
2. Slowly lift your hand up and above your dog’s head.
3. As your dog looks up to follow your hand, create a sign with your other hand (I personally use a clenched fist) and hold it slightly above your dog’s head.
4. As your dog raises his/her head to follow your hand, their rear end should naturally go down.
5. As soon as his/her bottom hits the ground and he/she is in the “sit” position, give your dog the treat and praise him/her enthusiastically.

Try: Practising this command in different locations and situations.

Note: To avoid being counter productive, do not hold the treat too far above your dog’s head as you may encourage him/her to jump for the reward.


1. Give the “stay” signal by holding up your hand with the flat of your palm pointing towards your dog.
2. Keep your hand raised and slowly move away from your dog.
3. If your dog comes towards you, command him/her to sit and repeat steps  1 & 2.
4. Once your dog able to “stay,” signal him/her to “come” to you and reward him/her with a tasty treat or toy.

Try: Gradually increasing the distance between you and your dog. Eventually you can attempt leaving the room after giving this command.

Note: Try to remain in your dog’s sight until he/she understands this command as your deaf dog may become anxious if he/she does not know where you are.

Overall Training Tips

 Use rewards (food, toys) and praise (thumbs up, pats) to reinforce good behaviour.

  If your dog fails to perform the command, do not give him/her the treat. Continue with the command until he/she executes it correctly.

  Always encourage your dog and NEVER get angry at him/her. If you begin to get tired or irritated. Stop the training session immediately.

  Do not overdo the training. Take it gradually and stick to short 15 – 30 minute sessions.

  Involve the entire family in training to ensure that the hand signals used remain consistent

Please note: I am not a professional trainer. This information is based solely on my personal experiences with my deaf dog, Cherry.