Meet Blue, a three-month old Border Collie male who’s that little bit more special than his classmates: Blue is deaf.
Blue is our first deaf student.
We can’t wait to go on this journey with him an his owner, Angie, who agreed with documenting the process.
- We’ll need a sign for him to know when he’s done well. We use a clicker word at our dog training school in The Hague, a short word that the dog associates with getting a treat because he’s done well. But as he’s deaf, a happy ‘yes’ won’t do much.We considered a flash light (after all, I’d trained a fish to shoot basketball hoops using a flash light), but that won’t work that well during the day, it’s yet something else for the owner to carry, and it is battery-dependent so not ideal for on-the-road training. We also considered vibrations (like stomping your foot to the ground) but this won’t carry on all surfaces. So it’ll be a thumbs up sign, always followed by a treat (hidden in the fist).
- We’ll need for him to look at his owner way more often than other dogs do. We’re set there, as we are real sticklers for the ‘default-checkin’, an exercise where we reward the dog for spontaneously and often ‘joining up’ with his owner even in the presence of distractions. This will have to be a pillar of Blue’s training.
- We’ll need a way to prompt his attention. This will have to be a hand touch on a particular part of his body. We’ll need for it not to startle him, so no touching his romp etc. For close-range work, this could be a chin rub. We’ll play around with this to find the best formula. This is the equivalent of the ‘watch me’
- We’ll need for him to understand distinct cues. We are considering the revolutionary Do-As-I-Do method for this, but it will require Angie to approach training in a different way to the rest of the students. Another option, would be for Angie to read up on sign language, and give him the usual commands in sign language.
- For recall work at a distance, we are considering a vibration collar. We wouldn’t dream of a shock collar, of course. A vibration collar just vibrates when you want to recall the dog.
We’ll let you know how we get on.
Thank you Angie for allowing us to document this process!
And to those of you who are experienced and well-read on raising a deaf dogs, we’d love your suggestions on firstname.lastname@example.org.