Teaching Your Hard-of-Hearing Dog to Come When Called
One of the greatest challenges with a hearing-impaired dog is getting him to return to you when needed. The inability to hear the cue to come when called can have serious consequences for dogs who get out of reach of a pet owner, whether they escape or are on an off-leash hike. These dogs can charge full speed into danger, such as traffic, without being aware of a car speeding toward them. Hearing-impaired dogs can also easily get lost, as they can’t use sound to locate their missing pet parent.
Since a dog with hearing impairment is at elevated risk for getting lost or getting into danger, he should always be kept on a leash or on a long line when out on walks or out of a fenced area. But you can teach your deaf pet to return to your side when he is contained in a safe area, such as within your fenced yard or home.
Choose Your Signal
A dog with hearing loss will not be able to respond to a traditional verbal come when called cue. But there are some simple, creative ways to rethink this command and make it work for your hearing-impaired pup.
Sometimes the easiest way to get your hearing-impaired dog's attention is to chang the pitch of the call you use. Dogs with some reduction in their hearing may still hear certain pitches clearly. Experiment with different sounds to see if there is one your pet may still be able to perceive, such as a high-pitched dog whistle, and use that to call him to your side.
A vibration-only collar can also work well for signaling a dog with hearing loss. Be sure that you choose a vibration-only collar, without a shock setting, designed for hearing- or vision-impaired dogs. You can also look into the use of lights, such as a flashlight or the flashing of your porch light, to get your pet’s attention at night. Laser lights can be used if they are shone in an area on the ground just in front of the dog’s line of vision; however, special precaution must be taken never to shine the light directly into the dog’s eyes.
Teach the Response
Whatever your chosen signal, it’s essential to teach your pet that it means to come to your side whenever he sees it. After all, a new signal means nothing on its own until it is associated with a certain behavior.
Start by standing fully in your dog’s line of vision. Give the signal, such as the whistle or the collar vibration, and then use your body to call your dog, by stooping down or backing up. As you do this, toss treats in front of your feet. As soon as your pet comes to you and gets his treat, repeat the signal and the subsequent cue and toss more treats right by your feet. Repeat this process until your dog responds to the new signal and understands the new cue.
In essence, you’re teaching your pet that it’s worthwhile to come and find you whenever he perceives the signal, because he will find treats, petting, toys or some other desirable reward when he finds you. As your dog gains speed in finding you whenever the signal goes off, make it more difficult by steadily getting farther out of his field of vision, which would simulate a real-life situation where your pet may not be able to see you when you call him.
Keep in mind that your pet may have a longer delay in finding you without his hearing, as he mainly must rely on his sight and smell.