Lately I’ve been getting so many questions on our Deaf Dogs Rock Facebook page asking about how to tell or train a deaf puppy “no”, “sit” or “laydown”. The video below shot by Alisha McGraw pretty much covers many of the basic deaf dog sign cues you will need to learn. Training a deaf puppy isn’t that much different then training a hearing puppy. You just need to tweak your training a little bit.

Try to get into the habit of signing to your deaf dog throughout your daily routine instead of just signing in your training sessions. For example, I sign a “W” every time I fill up their water bowl. I sign when it is time to eat, when it is time to go outside (they have to “sit” and “wait” to eat, go outside, come inside ect) and also I point in different directions when I am walking through the house so they can learn and understand directional signing. If you want to knock your training up a notch, then you can do some Tether Training while using directional signing the whole time your dog is tethered to you. To read more about Tether Training, please click here. 


The deaf puppy or dog needs to be looking at you directly at you FIRST before you can actually give the dog a sign command.  Your first training should be mini sessions of working on getting the deaf dog to look at you. I sign and touch my nose with Nitro to give him the cue for “watch me” sign.  When he makes eye contact with me, I give him an open flash of my hand (to visually mark the correct behavior instead of the sound of a clicker like the do in Positive Reinforcement Clicker Training to mark the right behavior) and then I give him a treat.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

To start on different sign cues, give the specific sign cue you want the dog to perform, lure the dog into place with a high value treat, (I use Light Bologna and cut it into very small squares) give a open flash of your hand when the dog does what you want (or a thumbs up sign), then treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Be sure to check out some of the great training videos by other deaf dog owners under our Training Video section to see how the positive reinforcement training works with deaf dogs.

Also if you start training your deaf dog to do new tricks and you want to learn new signs. I use a couple of different American Sign Language web-sites like or and then just type in the word in the search box. Once you type in the word and press enter there will be a 5 second video with someone signing the word so you can see how to sign the word. I use the ASL signs but sometimes I only have one hand free so my deaf dogs know the one handed version of an ASL sign which we like to call Deaf Dogs Sign Language or DDSL. If you decide to come up with your own signs for your deaf dog that would be considered DDSL.

I watched this video over and over and over again the night before I picked up my deaf puppy Nitro from the shelter. Alisha did a great job on this video and according to my deaf dogs Nitro, Bud and myself, Alisha totally ROCKS! ~ Christina Lee – Deaf Dogs Rock

Two Books We Recommend

A Deaf Dog Joins the Family: Training, Education, and Communication for a Smooth Transition

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Signing Made Easy (A Complete Program for Learning Sign Language. Includes Sentence Drills and Exercises for Increased Comprehension and Signing Skill)

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“Many languages can be difficult to learn, and may be even more confusing when regional accents enter the mix. There is one language, however, that requires no sound at all, and because of that fact, it is a tremendously versatile and accessible method of communication. American Sign Language (ASL) is one of the best resources available for those afflicted with deafness and those with whom they communicate.” Opening paragraph from

For more information on American Sign Language visit

ASL is a remarkably versatile language, and quite fun to learn. For more information on ASL, its structure, and how to learn it, please feel free to review the additional resources below.

Life Print – ASLU


American Sign Language Browser

Signing Savvy Online Dictionary

History of Sign Language

Sign Language Linguistics

American Sign Language Alphabet & Number Chart

History of American Sign Language

Deaf Culture – Sentence Structure

Master American Sign Language

American Sign Language Alphabet Practice