Tips for Training Deaf Dogs

You Guys!

Today we have special guest Rendy Schuchat, owner and founder of Anything is Pawzible in Chicago, Il, to talk with us about training deaf dogs! I’ve admitted it before, and I’ll say it again: my best friend is a dog. While she isn’t deaf (although occasionally she acts like it), we wanted to have a little resource for anyone that was considering adopting a deaf dog. Also, modeling for us today will be Doodle (my best friend), because we don’t have any photos of deaf dogs being trained.

Doodle, though not deaf, is ready to pose for our article!

Doodle, though not deaf, is ready to pose for our article!

Welcome, Rendy! Training deaf dogs seems like it might be more challenging than training a dog that can hear. Tell us, what is the most challenging part about training a deaf dog?

Actually, the most challenging part of training a deaf dog is teaching their owners how to shift gears from verbal to hand cues.  Dogs follow body language better than verbal, so attaching meaning to hand cues is what we start with even when the dog can hear!

Yes, I like to blame things on people, too. Are there any tasks that deaf dogs are better at than dogs that can hear?

Once you have their attention, deaf dogs can actually be less distracted because disruptions that an otherwise hearing dog might get distracted by are not present with deaf dogs (buses, kids screaming other dogs barking, etc.)

Training dogs takes quick action to let them know they’ve done something right. How do you immediately tell a deaf dog that they’ve done well if you can’t use a clicker or say “good?”

Before you can teach any dog (hearing or deaf) it is best to attach a “positive marker” that means that was what I wanted! With hearing dogs we use the word “yes!” With deaf dogs, I have used the thumbs up hand cue.  We show them the cue and then give them a treat and continue to repeat until the dog shows visible signs (ears alert, leaning forward, eyes brighten) that they are excited to see that thumbs up signal, which will eventually be tied to exercises we teach.

Perhaps you can walk us through a command. For instance, how do you train a deaf dog to come?

I would take a treat and jog slowly backwards drawing the dog towards me. As the dog began to follow, I would give the “thumbs up” sign and a treat would be given. I would repeat this and begin to shape hand [a] command by pulling the treat towards my chest shaping a hand cue that means “come,” making sure to stop and positively mark the behavior I was looking for. Eventually, we would fade the treat and ask for a sit to finish the exercise. Voila!

Doodle accepting a treat for "Down."

Doodle accepting a treat for “Down.”

Do you ever suggest that deaf dogs be allowed off-leash, either at a dog park or otherwise?

I am not a fan of off-leash unless the area is completely enclosed and safe, especially with a deaf dog. There are just too many distractions you would need to control for which takes individual practice with each of them. If a deaf dogs encounters something that they are uncertain or even frightened by and bolts or spooks, it would be very difficult to get their attention. Many people with deaf dogs will use a vibrating collar in place of their name. It isn’t meant to harm the dog, in fact, just the opposite. We teach the dog that the gentle buzz means “look at me” and something great will happen! These collars could be used in an off leash situation, but lots of rehearsal and practice is necessary before going off leash – and collars we may be relying on to get the dogs attention can fail.

Do you have to teach deaf dogs any special commands as part of their basic training that you wouldn’t otherwise need to teach a regular dog? What are the absolute musts you think a deaf dog must learn as part of basic obedience?

I honestly can’t think of anything a deaf dog must know that a hearing dog wouldn’t. Any command you can teach a hearing dog and deaf dog should learn and vice versa – no limitations!

Doodle flying through agility. Again, she's not deaf, but she looks really cool.

Doodle flying through agility. Again, she’s not deaf, but she looks really cool.

One more question: Besides the buzzing collar, how can you get a hyperactive deaf dog to pay attention to you? He obviously has to be looking at you in order to see the hand cues. Is that ever a problem with dogs that are a little more active or having trouble sitting still?

Hyperactive dogs in general (hearing or not) have a harder time paying attention.  Some of my clients have used a stomp on the floor in place of the collar. If the dog is engaging in a behavior that is undesirable, say jumping up on the counter, the stomp becomes the attention cue and when the dogs looks in your direction a “negative marker,” like a shaking a finger with a stern face, can convey the behavior needs to stop.

I use the stern face command a lot, myself. Thank you so much, Rendy, for helping us learn more about training deaf dogs!


If you live in the Chicago area and would like to contact Rendy about dog training, you can reach her at her website at

img_hs_rendy Rendy Schuchat, M.A. –  Owner/Founder and Head Dog Trainer at Anything Is PAWZible dog training in Chicago, Illinois. I bring my life-long love for animals together with proven positive dog training techniques that both you and your dog will enjoy. With over a decade of professional experience and a Masters Degree in Psychology as well as a Certification in Dog Obedience Instruction from Animal Behavior Training and Associates, I am committed to helping people build and strengthen their relationships with their dogs. I was voted one of the BEST/FAVORITE DOG TRAINERS in Chicago by Chicagoland Tails Reader’s Choice Awards multiple times.







**Edited by Alana Grelyak. No compensation was exchanged by any party for this post.**

Bachelor of the Week: Hachi!

Dear World,
I hope you are well. Today, I would like to introduce you to Hachi, a small pomeranian who has a few needs. Let me give you his information:
Name: Hachi
Weight: 7 pounds
Age: 10
Special Needs: blind, torn ligament in leg, heart murmur
Batting average: 0.0 (he doesn’t play baseball – he prefers hockey)
Now then, let’s discuss Hachi’s needs. He is blind, but he comes when you call him, he’s house trained and crate trained. Also, sometimes his eyes move back and forth a bit.  Hachi has a heart murmur but he requires no medication for it and I’ve heard that Co Q-10 supplements are helpful and inexpensive for such things. He also has a torn ligament in his leg, which prevents him from playing hockey and aids in him having a 0.0 batting average, but he’s on a low dose of pain meds, which in turn, makes him quite the happy little fellow! He sometimes hops on it. You can hop too, and call it dancing.
Hachi gets on well with dogs and cats and he really, really, really loves people. In fact, he loves people so much, he would like to go home with one who wants to love and snuggle him so he can retire from baseball forever. (Just kidding. Hachi doesn’t want to retire from baseball. He wants to watch it from the couch. With YOU.)
If you’d like to meet Hachi, he’s in foster care in Virginia through the Blind Dog Rescue Alliance. He can be transported to you at no extra cost, even if you’re out of state, as long as it’s a reasonable distance. Call him up. Have a chat. If there’s anything Hachi can do, it’s love you. In fact, he’ll knock it right out of the park. Meet Hachi today.
Hachi enjoying a game from the stands

Hachi enjoying a game from the stands, which happen to be filled with dog food. Lucky him!

Strutting his face.

Strutting his stuff.





PS. Check out the newest CATastrophes video – it’s under one minute and tells you what to do if your cat is scratching up the couch!


Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog: A True Story

You guys! I just made a few friend and I wanted you to meet her, too! Today, we have with us Sharon, a lovely lady who has been kind enough to share with us her story of Sophie, her beloved dog who became paralyzed midway through her life and who is the inspiration behind her blog “Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog.” Please give her a big welcome as she opens up to us about some of the details in living with a special needs dog.

dog blog

Crepes: Your blog is called “Lessons From a Paralyzed Dog” and is written about your dog Sophie, who became paralyzed due to an undiagnosed illness. Tell me, how did you notice that something was going wrong with Sophie’s health? What were the first signs?

Sharon: The first signs that something was wrong with Sophie were very subtle. My husband and I walked our three dogs, Sophie, Shadow, and Cody around the three mile path in our neighborhood nearly every day and we noticed the first sign during the walks. At first Sophie started walking slower than usual and stopped for breaks. We poked fun at the idea she was becoming an old lady because she was ten years old. Soon after, we saw her back legs slip out from under her during our walks as if she walked on something slick. I got suspicious and paid more attention to the situation and realized she was starting to slip inside the house too. Soon after that, we went to the vet. Sophie’s condition deteriorated very slowly. It took six months for her to be completely paralyzed.

C: Many people would have re-homed an animal with Sophie’s needs, but you didn’t. Why?

S: She had been part of our family for 10 years so the thought of giving her up never entered our minds. I adopted her from the city shelter when she was about 4 months-old. Sophie was my little girl and we would never give her away or give up on her just because she was disabled. However, many of my friends thought we were crazy to be her caregivers for five years.

Sophie in her bed.

Sophie in her bed.

C: Did you ever feel like Sophie’s needs were too much for you to handle?

S: Yes. The two roughest times were when she first became paralyzed because we didn’t have the skills and then again in the last few months of her life. She became very fussy about eating and was rapidly losing weight. It became very stressful trying to cook food that she enjoyed eating. We tried chicken and rice, soups, hot dogs, hamburger and rice, baby food… anything I could think of. Sophie was a big fan of McDonald’s chicken nuggets so there were many nights when I made a late night run to pick some up. I knew she was really sick when she stopped eating them. One morning I spent two hours tearing through everything in my refrigerator trying to find something that she liked. (It turned out that she was developing a tumor in her stomach and although she couldn’t feel any pain because of the paralysis, it must have upset her stomach when she ate.) She acted very excited to see the food, but simply couldn’t get it down.

C: Were you able to go out of town and leave the house for long periods? How did you prepare Sophie if leaving was required?

S: The first 18 months my husband Ken and I didn’t leave our house for more than 4 hours at a time. (We work from home). Finally, we were exhausted and I searched for a pet sitter who was willing to help. I wrote a story called Practically Perfect Pet Sitter because we found a woman named Claire to take care of not only Sophie but all of our pets. Claire still helps us today. At first, we went on day trips and finally progressed to being away longer, but I don’t think we were ever gone more than 4 days at a time. I prepared with massive training sessions for Claire, especially about expressing Sophie’s bladder. I left tons of written instructions for Claire. She could always reach us by phone and she knew how to reach neighbors and our vet. We were in constant communication during every trip.

C: What do you think is the greatest lesson that you learned from Sophie?

S: That’s a good question. There are so many important lessons, but I hadn’t thought about the greatest lesson. Maybe it would be that life is constantly changing and when someone you love is handed a challenge, you don’t give up or hand the problem to someone else. You adapt.

Sophie and her friend Shadow

Sophie and her friend Shadow

C: What do you hope to inspire with your blog?

S: I hope my blog will be a resource to owners with special needs pets. I want to share the life lessons I learned from Sophie’s experience and also share information about resources for products and services for disabled pets. I had to hunt around for information. It would have been nice to find one page that answered my questions. I want to be that resource.

C: Is there anything I left out that you’d like our readers to know?

S: I would like them to know that while it’s a gift to help your disabled pet live with their handicap, you also have to recognize when to let go and say goodbye.


There it is, guys! I want everyone to know that if you have a special needs pet, and you’re going through a hard time,  you’re not alone. There is a whole community for you to find help and support, and sharing real stories like Sharon’s are an important part of that! Please stop by at Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog to say hello and find more stories about living with special needs pets.



PS. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! It’s a big event here in Chicago, so I wore my t-shirt in support! This is after a big night of staying up late waiting for the river to turn green. Love, O’Crepes.

Me in my festive T-shirt. What do you think?

Me in my festive “kiss me, I’m Chi-rish”  T-shirt. What do you think?