Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How can you make a deaf dog come when called?

Liam the pug listening

Liam the pug can no longer hear routine, everyday sounds. He can sometimes hear very high, very loud sounds. But that's rare. For all intents and purposes, this little pug is deaf.

Together, Liam and I are adjusting to his deafness. And as part of that adjustment, we're working on transferring his knowledge of commands from a verbal to a visual format. That means he needs to be able to perform on hand signals alone, not vocal controls.

Many of these transitions are easy to make. But there's one that's very important, and very hard to get right. That command: Come here.

This is a command I could once yell at Liam over great distances, and he'd come running and running back to me wherever I was. Now, he can't hear me when I call.

We've settled on a command that looks a little like waving. I hold my hands by my knees, with my knuckles facing Liam, and I draw my hands toward my body in one big gesture. And he comes.

But that only works when he can see me.

Enter the helper.

Sinead the Boston terrier listening to commands

Sinead the Boston terrier is 100 percent accurate on a recall. Whenever I call her, she comes right over. And typically, she comes over just as fast as she can when she hears the command.

Liam may not be able to hear me call the dogs in from the yard, but he can see Sinead running to the door. He always watches her carefully (as he is doing in this photo) for cues. If I ask her to come into the house and he sees her running, he comes along as well.

Liam and Sinead listening

The other helpful command to reinforce with both dogs is watch me. This command forces your dog to look you in the eyes, despite whatever else might be happening in the area. I've always used visual cues for this particular command (I move my hands from the ground to my eyes), so both the dogs know what it means if I say nothing at all.

Lately, hubby and I have been asking the dogs to watch us on a regular basis. If the dogs are in the habit of checking in with a glance every now and then, they're less likely to run away and need a call back.

We have a lot of work left to do with Liam, but thankfully, he loves to learn. And he's a very quick study. With a little patience and persistence, I'm sure we'll be able to communicate beautifully, even if he can't hear what I'm saying.

Any of you dealing with deaf pets? If you have tips you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them. Drop me a note in the comments, won't you?


  1. That's great info. Mom's Eskie Katie lost her hearting but could always pick up on Mom's movements.

    The Florida Furkids

  2. Our 2 doggies left for the Bridge a long time ago, they were both deaf. We got an extra strong clicker and they could hear that most of the time.

  3. I am glad you have found ways to help Liam adjust to being deaf.

  4. It's amazing how well animals adjust to things like not being able to hear...or to see. We're glad you figured out a way to have Liam "hear" you.

  5. Our late beagle Kobi had lost a lot of his hearing, and he responded well to hand signals.
    I train Luke with hand signals in addition to words too, even though he's young and has no hearing issues. I've found he responds better to them than words anyway. But it's so true you have to get them to look at you to start with!
    It sure doesn't hurt to have a helper, good job by Sinead.