Post 4.8 - Puppy, Can You Hear Me?

Until recently, I worked from home. This meant that I had a lot of teleconferences and phone calls that I couldn't interrupt to give commands to my dog. I am also hearing impaired; while I do not sign in any way fluently or require it for my human interactions, it was very easy to incorporate a gestural shorthand into our dogs' training alongside of spoken commands.

This has proved to have many benefits.

Silent commands are subtle and often go unnoticed by other humans, so they can be used when you're on the phone, in public, even in a sleeping baby's room. Or at those times when you just don't feel like speaking.

Our oldest dog was the first beneficiary of this style of training, as my brother was once an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. As she has aged, her hearing has deteriorated considerably. Rather than yelling or trying to find another way to express what we want from her, we've been able to rely on signing to communicate what is needed -- from simply sitting to following us somewhere. It just becomes a matter of being in her field of vision.

And it isn't difficult -- simply accompany your words with a specific gesture, just as you would if you were speaking and signing ASL at the same time. They don't have to be ASL signs as long as they clear, logical (to you), and easily differentiated. You can even start doing it while your dogs are young, before any hearing loss is apparent or an obstacle -- it doesn't have to be done from puppyhood.

And you'll thank me the next time you're on the phone and the dog barks, and you can enjoy the silence and the end of a distraction with just a wave of your hand.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

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