Training a Deaf Dog

Many all White Dogs are Deaf

Deaf dogs are fairly common, but easily misunderstood.  A large portion of them end up in shelters and rescues because people simply don’t know how to train and work with them while taking into account their special needs.

Deafness is often congenital in dogs.  But genetics can be difficult for some people to understand.

I will try and break it down in layman’s terms for a brief understanding.

The disorder is usually associated with pigmentation patterns, where the presence of white in the hair increases the likelihood of deafness.  Two known genes are the “merle” gene as seen in Collies, Dachshunds, Australian Shepherds and others and the “piebald” gene as seen in Bull Terriers, Bull Dogs, Great Danes and Dalmatians.

Deafness associated with the merle gene, which produces a patchwork of lighter and darker coat coloring the gene (M) is dominant so that affected dogs (Mm) show the merle or dapple coloring.  However when two heterozygous dogs with merle are bred 25% will end up with (MM) and these dogs usually have a complete lack of color, a total white coat and blue iris.  These white dogs are often blind and/or deaf and sterile.

Interestingly (for those of you like me, who like this genetic type of stuff), deafness is neither dominant nor recessive but is linked to a dominant gene that

This blue Iris can be another Sign of Deafness

disrupts pigmentation only secondarily producing deaf dogs.

Most good breeders know not to breed these dog ( merle to merle).  However sometimes people who don’t research breeds end up breeding deaf dogs.

Owning and training a deaf dog takes extra patience and his learning will probably be a bit more delayed.  However, if trained with lots of patience and consistency deaf dogs can be just as rewarding if not more so than the average dog!

Things to Consider with a Deaf Dog

A leash and a fenced yard are requirements.

Because a deaf dog cannot hear commands it is expected that these guys need to be kept on a leash and in a safe fenced environment.

Make sure to buy your dog a tag with your name # and address and also a note saying the dog is deaf.

Training a deaf dog requires some study.  Although it doesn’t matter what hand signals you use (as long as you are consistent) the more signals you learn the happier your dog will be and the more he will know.  I recommend my clients with deaf dogs learn some human sign language to help their dogs learn.

An article on teaching your dog hand signals will be posted soon!  Please keep your eyes open!


Your dog is not going to learn voice commands or be able to understand tone of voice or verbal praise, although he will be quite adept at reading your facial signals and body language.

You must reconsider all of your training protocols with a deaf dog.

Your dog will learn through hand signals, touch, vibration and the use of primary reinforcement like food treats.

You can also utilize a vibrating collar.  Not a shock collar, although most vibrating collars have a “shock” function; you will not be using this option.  The vibration of the collar is like a paging system for the deaf dog letting him know when you want him to come to you.  You can even make your own vibration collar.

The most important thing is to pair the tiny vibration of the collar on its lowest level to a pleasant stimulus; a primary reinforcer like food.  You cannot simply throw the collar on your dog, vibrate it and expect him to think it is something good.

Use Hand Signals and Consistency!

As a matter of fact if you do this incorrectly you will be teaching your dog to associate the vibration with something negative or scary.

SLOWLY acclimate your dog to the stimulus adding food, visual praise (your smile) and petting and affection.  Soon this vibration will be like using your dog’s name to call him.  Never use this collar to punish or your dog will be leery of coming to you!  Do not use its shock function if you decide to buy a collar and not make one.

Other tricks of the trade or to understand that vibration of any kind is what you are going to need to get your dog’s attention; stomping on the floor and thumping on the wall can help your dog know when you want his attention.

Again pair the thumping with treats, smiles, and affection once he understands that this means you want his attention he will come running to you as if you used his name!

As with hearing dogs, if your deaf dog ignores your page with the collar or the thumping on the floor, go to him and get him but do not continue to give a “command” that will eventually become meaningless!

It is critical to be consistent with deaf dogs!

Once you have gotten his attention you can use hand signals to teach him the basics of “sit” “down” “stay” “come” and “heel”.  Even though he cannot hear you, you can still use verbal commands, he will get use to your facial expressions and movements and the look of pleasure on your face!

Be consistent, patient and use the same signal each time.  You will find that most dogs learn quicker with hand signals than they do even with verbal commands!

Once you have conquered the basics, you can add fun commands by using sign language and games to help him learn and explore in his environment!


Start Calming Down Your Over Excited Dogs Today!

Your First Lesson’s FREE:

Sign up below and we’ll email you your first “Training For Calm” lesson to your inbox in the next 5 minutes.


  1. Maurice Dyke says:

    Hello. I do have a question but its not really about a deaf dog. I bought a Border Terrier from a rescue centre. this little dog is about 3 years old and was owned by a dear old lady she was 85 and became a sufferer of altzimers that affected her so much that the dog was given to this centre. In the house the dog is very obedient does almost anything very well trained its only problem is that it was never let out and now its extreemly agressive to all dogs I have tried a clicker and a whistle but to no avail your comments will be most welcome.
    Yours Faithfully


    Minette Reply:

    You are going to need to work on desensitization with her and work slowly from a long distance.

    Sometimes the safest place to do this is with a professional dog trainer or in a class environment so you can work with a non-confrontational dog that is well controlled.

    Otherwise work in a park or somewhere where only one dog is at a time and convince your little dog that when other dogs are around she gets treats and praise for GOOD behavior!


  2. Linda Womelduff says:

    Thank you for putting this on facebook. Cassie, my white Australian Shepherd puppy is now 12 weeks old. She has strabismus in both of her blue eyes. She can see some, just not sure how much or how far. Her hearing is my main concern at this point. My vet said there is no reason to do a BAER test, because we know Cassie is severely hearing impaired. She’s not completely deaf. My huband put rocks in a metal coffee can. She can hear that if we get not quite a foot away. I bought clickers to do the clicker training, but it does’nt work on Cassie. I have been using flashlights, rocks in the can, and been using basic hand signals for training. So far I have been able to train her to potty outside, crate train, to sit, to come (most of the time). Her sister, Carley (grey merle), gets alot of credit also. I didn’t realize getting 2 puppies at the same time would be that much more than 1 puppy @ a time, let alone one being sight & hearing impaired. I love Cassie so much, and putting her done is not an option. She is so loving, and gives me lots of kisses. My purpose in life right now is to train her, using your WONDERFUL


    Minette Reply:

    Good for you!! She is in the right hands! She is lucky to have you 😉

    And, YES 2 puppies is like having 10 hahaha so much more than just having one!


  3. Linda Womelduff says:

    Minette, Thank you for your reply. I feel lucky to have Cassie. She has added so much to my life in the few weeks I’ve had her. My reply to Chet that you just read was cut off due to me hitting a wrong button. I resent another reply not knowing if this one went thru. Take care,Linda


  4. Noel Stiles says:

    Minette, It is a pity that so few people are aware that so called ”stupid” dogs are in fact deaf. My Boston Terrier was called stupid at puppy school. The only thing that he couldn`t do was to come to me when I was out of sight. He passed all of the other requirements with flying colours.(We spell colors with a ”u”)
    Jonty ,he turned six on the 18th of February, has been a delightful dog. We love him to bits. He is affectionate and obedient.
    Most people do not know that Boston Terriers come in three sizes, namely small, medium and large. Jonty is of the large variety. He is as big as a Staffie and weighs in at 17 kilograms and is trim and well muscled.
    He sits for his supper and won`t touch his food until either my wife or I ”tell” him that he may do so. He has been an excellent watch dog. He sleeps inside and goes to bed by himself. He has warned us on numerous occasions that something is not quite right.
    The breeder , much to our horror, offered to change him for a hearing dog when he was diagnosed as being deaf. We explained that he was one of the family and had crept into our hearts and that we wouldn`t give him away for all the money in the world.


  5. Reenie Ager says:

    It is good to see people discussing what is an ‘ordinary’ issue that can occur in life. We, at the moment have 8 rescue dogs:- picked up from the street, thrown at me, thrown at our car in a box, from a shelter who wouldn’t take no for an answer and two who were inside their mother when she was thrown over a friend’s high garden wall – she gave birth 3 days later to a healthy litter of 9 puppies of which I was given two!. It turned out one of these 2 puppies, (now 4 years old) rescued with his brother, is totally deaf. This condition was brought to our attention by his brother who would always go and wake him up when it was feeding time and drag him along when we went out in the car- we thought they were being typical rough and tumble puppy brothers at the time! It suddenly made sense when all the dogs ran for their food and ‘Monty’ slept on, when he would sit and stare at me instead of running to come with us etc. For one year his brother Sky showed us that they were a team and life was easy. Then Sky became too possessive and protective of both Monty and myself. He started turning vicious not just to all the other and any other dogs but to people as well, only excluding Monty and myself. Despite our best efforts to change this behaviour, in the end, he had to be put down.

    For the first three months Monty was bereft and insecure. It took a lot of love, effort and work to integrate Monty back into the fun life he had experienced before the loss of his brother, but by consistency, additional hand signals,’speaking’ to him in positive ways against his skull so he ‘felt’ the words, he is still a well rounded dog who enjoys all aspects of life including helping to integrate the new rescue dogs we have since acquired, by always being the sensible and stabilizing influence of our pack alongside Walter, our now 19 year old terrier mix who was our first rescue.

    Monty is a GS and Boerboel(A South African dog) mix and is the full tri colour of a GS with beautiful brown eyes. He is gentle, playful good with adults, children babies, puppies , other dogs, and loves travelling to new places. His brother Sky was the full pale tan of the Boerboel with pale blue eyes. He had full hearing and sight. I still miss him daily despite it being nearly three years since his demise as I do the other 6 dogs we have rescued who have sinced died of old age. We would never be without any of our dogs regardless of age or supposed disability or background – as we love ’em all!!


  6. martha says:

    Hi i have a black lab that is 13 1/2 year old and she has gone deaf and so we had to teach her signs to get her attention when we are walking on a leach and we need to get her attention we just flick the leach and she turns around but when she is out in the back yard pen we have to go to her and tap her on the back to get her attention or send the other dog out to get her
    it is so cute, we got a puppy Jasper he is 8 month old know and i take him to work with me every day i have been using your training tip with him and he is learning a great deal still having trouble with him jumping on guests, but when we get home he will go and find the lab (cuddles)and let her know we are home
    if she is sleeping he noses her to wake her up and kisses her face she has been very good with the puppy even thought she can hear him growl at her when they play.
    i thank you for all your very helpful training tips.


  7. MICHELLE says:



    Minette Reply:

    With any aggressive dog and especially when children are in the picture I recommend a veterinary behaviorist enter the picture to see the behaviors and help set you up on the right path.


  8. Brooke says:

    I have a 12 week old deaf cockapoo. We take him out several times a day and he knows what he is supposed to do outside. He is still going to the bathroom in the house though. For example even if I took him out half an hour ago and he goes outside, then he may go again on the floor inside. How do we stop this? Thanks!


    Minette Reply:

    same as with any puppy! You can search for potty training articles by putting that in as a search in the bar at the top


  9. Justyne says:

    Please could i have help i have a Great Dane that i got as a rescue dog he is 18 months old. I cannot stop him from eating off counters, stealing my toddlers food. He is a loving giant of a boy – but at the moment i can’t control him. i am battling to find a trainer in the Edenvale area that could help me train him. Please help


    Minette Reply:

    search our articles for “counter surfing” and you will find an article that helps along with other helpful free articles.


  10. Arlene says:

    My comment to Justine on potty training is control the input (water & food) and you will be able to control the output much easier……and small treat rewards for when they get it right!


  11. Hi I have a deaf border collie I rescued from a farm and he does understand quite a lot of hand signals but my problem is he barks a great deal wen out in the park only in play but which scares other dogs away and seems to annoy some people….how can I quiten him down…I have tried putting my finger to my mouth to show quiet but he is too hyped up to notice. He became deaf due to a severe fit while a working collie. He is brilliant with everyone and all other dogs and so loving.


  12. Candice says:

    My bf and I are adopting a catahoula puppy from a shelter. After doing some research on her we found she may b deaf but won’t know exactly how bad. She’s two months old and excessive white with few markings. A sure sign she will be. I’m scared on messing up with her training but I’m not a quitter. She needs love too. Reading this article has helped in the steps I should take. Thank you!!


  13. Joy says:

    I have a 10 month old JACK Russell puppy that’s deaf I realised this shortly after bringing it home as a 2 month old puppy. She’s finally house trained and very quick to learn with hand signals but not good at coming to me when buzzed when we are out in the backyard although I have trained her with vibrating collar lots of treats and positive affirmations and reinforcing recall training everyday. She barks at people passing the house and or when we are in the car she would bark when she sees other dogs. She’s mostly terrified of other dogs when we go for walks and becomes aggressive or tries to get away and chokes herself on the leash when she’s so frantic. Help please.


    Minette Reply:

    teach her eye contact and focus you can use the search bar to search for the articles that will help you teach this behavior.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *