Ask Tom, the Dogcharmer: George

Communicating with a deaf dog.

George, the 12-year-old French bulldog, is deaf. How can he be trained to come back to his owner without a voice command?—Susan White

Dear Tom,

I have a 12-year-old French bulldog named George who seems to be completely deaf now. He doesn’t hear me calling him, or respond to loud noises such as clapping, even when very close. If he is sleeping on the floor or outside on the deck, I can stamp my feet and he will respond to the vibration; otherwise he could sleep through a loud party! My question is — how do I call him when I need him to come and he isn’t in sight? I worry that this could be a serious problem if he is in potential danger and I can’t get his attention! Please advise.

George’s Mom

Dear George’s Mom,

When I first started training deaf dogs, it was all about hand signals and, when possible, creating a vibration, like stamping on the floor. However, as time goes by and George’s hearing does the opposite of getting better, as he gets older you may find the need for a vibration strong enough that it requires you to jump off the nearest chair to get a response.

If you have a tile or cement floor you will probably try the vibration stomp only once. Hand signals are perfect, as long as he’s close enough to see them, and of course if he happens to be looking at you. So when your dog’s off-leash, is he mostly looking at you, or is he looking and sniffing at everything in the world but you?

Early on I experimented with a laser light that shone a beautiful red dot, and easily trained Bowser to come when he saw the dot. Worked well, but limited to indoors. Didn’t go around corners or couches, and was useless outside in the sun. It was way back in my laser-beam days that I discovered the aberrant behavior of “light chaser” dogs. I had come to the house of a deaf Dalmatian, and the moment he saw the laser light he chased the light obsessively; even after it was turned off he couldn’t stop looking for it. I mean, for a good half-hour he was completely nuts looking for that light. It was impossible to get his attention after that. I’ve met several “light chasers” since then, and wouldn’t be surprised if someone reading this column has one. If your dog likes to leap after your flashlight beam, I would suggest that you don’t encourage it.

George’s Mom, technology to the rescue! Procure a remote collar that vibrates when you push the button on the remote. Before you put the collar on George, let him smell it as you give him a delicious piece of filet mignon from the Square Rigger, or a piece of baloney. If there are intensity levels of vibration, put it on the weakest. Put the collar on and smile with happy talk as you vibrate the collar while giving him the meat. Then step a couple of feet away and smile and bend down as you press the remote, and reward with the meat when he comes to you. Keep enlarging the distance that George travels to you when he feels the vibe. Very soon he’ll be in another room and come find you when he gets the vibe. Then take it outside doing basically the same thing, but train him initially in the house. Most important, have success build on success. If he doesn’t come one time, back up in the training to to where he will. Good luck, and enjoy the new George/Mom rapport.

The Dogcharmer

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