You might be thinking, why would I want to teach my dog Sign Language? If you’ve trained your dog already, it seems silly to add in Sign Language. Training with sound (auditory) is actually much more difficult because dogs are more visual learners than auditory learners. Training with hearing can take anywhere from months to years but training visually is much faster. But there is an even more important reason to train using signals, have you thought about what would happen if your dog were to lose their hearing? How would you be able to communicate with your dog? Or maybe you would like the ability to command your dog without having to say anything?
How Can Sign Language Improve Your Relationship With Your Dog
Not only does training your dog help keep your dog safe, it also improves their life. It is equally as important to train your dog, if not more important, when your dog is deaf or losing their hearing. Dogs are just like humans and need to be stimulated with education. Keeping signals for training is important to keep your dog familiar with the “rules” in your home and “rules” outside.
For many dogs hearing can deteriorate with age. Or you may have adopted a dog that cannot hear, so teaching a dog sign language can open communication and significantly improve your relationship.
Training your dog to use American Sign Language (ASL) is different than using normal hand gestures for training. ASL is a universal way to communicate with any deaf individual. Learning ASL can improve both you and your dog’s life.
If your dog is already deaf, training is different. If you’re training a dog that can hear, make sure to use both verbal and visual signals. But either way, you can train your dog to learn ASL with or without hearing.
Training a non-hearing dog, requires a lot more of a strong relationship base. Make sure you don’t just have some trust with your dog, you will need to be best friends with them. If your dog can hear, it’s still important to have a trusting relationship, as sounds from other things around will be able to easily distract if you do not.
Ways to earn a better relationship with your dog can vary to each dog, but there are many ways to a dog’s heart. Giving treats is one way to earn your dogs love, but there is also giving them boundaries and being stern that help create a bond. One thing that dogs need is an “alpha” so creating not only a caring relationship, but also letting them know you are in charge, will increase your bond. Giving baths frequently, grooming, talking in a low calm voice, all help with building your relationship. These techniques are what they would experience in the “wild” with their mother, and you are essentially replacing that bond.
How To Train Your Dog Using Sign Language
Once you’ve got a solid bond with your dog, teaching sign language will become a second-nature practice. Here are some first steps at trying to train your dog with American Sign Language:
- Ensure that you’re using delicious treats. Make sure your dog enjoys these treats because they will be necessary as a reward. Knowing their favorite treat is also a way to increase your relationship with your dog.
- You’ll next need to pick out the “mark” for the behavior you’re going to train. This “mark” can either be visual, or tactile. An example is a “thumbs up” or if you’re using touch, a leash movement or vibrating collar. https://www.amazon.com/Petsafe-Vibration-Dog-Training-Collar/dp/B00U2P342E
- Now you’ll need to get the dog to do the behavior you want. This can be done through three different ways.
- Capturing, luring and shaping are the three ways you can do this for a non-hearing dog.
- Capturing is using praise, in this case your treats.
- Luring is using the treat as a magnet, in order to produce the behavior you’re looking for.
- Shaping means you’re training through small steps towards the desired behavior.
- Make sure your dog is doing the behavior reliably, only then will you reliably give the reward (the treat).
- Use the visual or tactile cue before you see the behavior.
- Practice this over and over and over again. This step is what will eventually make this behavior a trained behavior.
Training a dog is already hard as it is using only verbal cues. We tend to think that dogs enjoy verbal training when really visual or tactile is more effective. While this practice of using non-verbal cues may seem more difficult for you, it will actually be much more simple for your dog. This type of training will require more change to happen on your end than your dog’s.