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October 22, 2013

Pet Talk: A dog's friendship requires no sound

“Man’s best friend” is a term with no discrimination. Whether your dog is large or petite, obedient or rebellious, you love it just the same. The unparalleled companionship between a human and a deaf dog is no exception.

It is a popular yet misguided belief that deaf dogs are unable to be a loving member of your family.

“Adopting any dog means that you are committing your family to providing a loving forever home,” said Dr. David Nelson, Clinical Associate Professor and director of Emergency Services at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

The obvious difference between a hearing dog and a deaf one is that you can't use your voice to get the dog's attention. Training a deaf dog is not necessarily harder than a hearing dog; it just requires a different approach.

“One key point in their training is that if they are not looking at you, they can't receive feedback and they don't know you have information to provide,” said Nelson. “They have to learn sign language and body posture, which needs to be consistently delivered, and just like any other dog, you must not let them get away with bad behavior.”

Another training technique helpful for communicating with your deaf pooch is to train it to respond to a vibrating collar. A push of the radio transmitter causes a vibration in the collar, and you can then condition your dog to respond to a reward. After multiple positive rewards, the dog’s attention should turn towards you immediately after signaling, so you can then provide further instruction.

Keep in mind that the vibration from the collar should never have a negative connotation, or your dog will be afraid to respond in the future. Having them come to you without hesitation is extremely important, so always be sure to provide positive feedback.

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