Anyone have any experience working with a puppy that is deaf from birth?
Limited, but some experience. Dogs can learn sign langauge extremely well. It doesn't have to be ASL of course, you can "make up" whatever hand signals you want your dog to respond to. Initial training is teaching the dog the command "focus" so they learn to watch you. Whereas most dogs can listen to verbal instructions whether they are looking at you or not (they should be looking however....), your dog will have to WANT to learn, which means you need to use 100% positive reinforcement training techniques to teach your dog that training sessions are fun.
Treats, treats, and more treats. I'm not a big treat trainer, but treats work great with deaf dogs because you can't use verbal praise and physical praise (petting, etc) isn't always possible.
To teach the dog to focus - pick a signal, use it religiously, and each time you use it and the dog looks at you, immediately reward with a treat. Before long the dog will learn to focus on you, and you can then start linking other signals with other commands. But as you can see, if the dog doesn't know the focus command, you are SOL.
Sorry it took so long to respond. I have very limited experience with deaf dogs and I was hoping someone with more experience might see this and respond. I'd google something like deaf dog web forum and see if you can find something like this, but specifically for deaf dogs. I'll bet there's something out there.
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