Training method: Treat
The first sign to teach a deaf pup, and I think the most important one, is the sign for “good dog”. There are a number of signs to choose from for this one– some people use a thumbs up, and some people use the ASL sign for yes, but I like to use the “okay” sign. As a favorite among both Lady Gaga and The Buddha, how can you go wrong? I like it for the simple reason that you can hold a treat between your thumb and index finger, so the dog gets an immediate reward. I think it’s the best choice for both convenience and speed.
The way to teach this sign will be just like clicker training with a hearing dog. You will begin by “loading” the clicker, which teaches the dog that anytime they see this sign, good things will happen and treats are on the way. Grab several tiny treats (pea-sized and easy to chew—turkey hot dogs are always a favorite) and just begin by flashing the sign and giving a treat. Repeat several times. Give the sign anytime the dog is doing something good that you want to encourage, whether you have a treat or not, and make sure to smile! Nodding helps, too. Understanding this sign will be the foundation of all your other training, so do it often!
It is also a good idea to begin any training session with this “good dog” exercise. Training sessions should be quick and fun– only five to ten minutes long. If you sense that your dog is losing interest, end the session on a good note so they will associate training with only positive experiences and fun times! You can do a few short training sessions per day. Some dogs are really into training, and some dogs can only tolerate one session per day, so just do whatever works for your pup, and be patient. You will see results!