Balanced dogs experience the world through their nose, eyes, then ears. But as humans, we often rely on sound while training our dogs. So what if your dog is deaf?
Dogs experience the world through their nose first, then eyes, then ears. We are accustomed as humans to relate through sound (ears), sight (eyes), and then scent (nose). When we bring a new dog home, we immediately give him a name. Oftentimes people choose a name based on the dog’s “personality” and then the wrong way of communicating and relating to your dog begins from day one.
A person with a deaf dog has a unique opportunity to communicate with their dog as the animal they are. Dogs communicate through energy and body language. I’ve said many times that you don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need. I’ve seen it time and time again that the dog a person chooses comes into their life and teaches them the lessons they need most.
So what are the lessons a deaf dog can teach? So many humans are out of touch with Mother Nature. They’ve lost patience. They’re disconnected from their lives. They are not mindfully aware and emotionally in tune. With a deaf dog, it is critical that you be present, feel the energy, read signals, and be in tune to yourself and the environment around you, just as you are asking your dog to do. You will need to bond with your dog in a way that he trusts you as his leader; a leader whose job is to provide him with protection and direction. So if you are going to cross the street, he looks to you to keep him safe. If you are turning the corner, he looks to you to show him which way to go.
People ask me about dog training all the time. So much that I wrote my last book about training and the various methods people use. And I talk about the differences between training and balance because one does not equal the other. What is the same is that you need to choose and find the method that works for you, what you are most comfortable with. Obviously, clicker training probably won’t work with a deaf dog. But if you use sound, that can help you feel the energy behind the word and therefore project that energy to the dog.
It will require time and patience and consistency. But to me, it is a wonderful opportunity. I rarely ever use words with dogs. I use the sound “tsch!” but that’s usually it. I use hand signals, energy, and most importantly body language to communicate that I want the dog to sit, lay down, back up, come. Sometimes I don’t even need to make a signal because I set the intention in my head of what I want and the dog responds. They feel the energy. Of course this doesn’t happen right away or easily, but with practice, you can achieve it. It can only be effective, however, if you are calm and assertive, in tune to your own emotions, confident in your ability, and trust; and your dog will reward you not only with his trust, but respect and loyalty too.
Remember that feeling sorry for a dog does him no favors. And in fact, puts him at risk for not being able to achieve balance later in life. Dogs need leadership before love. Remember, exercise, discipline then affection – this means that you can give affection to reward calm and balanced behavior, but not because you are feeling sympathetic that the dog can’t hear. He doesn’t know the difference. Being consistent with this approach is how to maintain a balanced state of mind, and calm submission, regardless of any physical disability.