On this article you will find information on collars for deaf dogs. I would like to make it clear that my dog Sabrina never had a training collar because I personally don't like them. My reason for this is that they have to be placed quite tight around the dog's neck for them to feel the vibration and some dogs find them traumatizing. In addition, it is not a good idea to let a deaf dog off of their leash in an open area anyway (see living with a deaf dog) However, some people do and for this reason I have included some information about them as you will be the best judge of what is best for your dog.
Vibrating collars are used to train deaf dogs because they provide the added benefit of acting like a paging system for the dog and its owner. When pressed, a button on a remote control causes the collar to vibrate, attracting your dog's attention (after extensive training!). The effective distance of the collar will depend on the make of the collar, so it is important to consider this when buying one. Although they are not the same as an electronic or shock collars and the vibration is not very strong, they are not pleasant for the dog either and a very sensitive dog can have a negative reaction to them.
Will your dog need a vibrating collar? Most likely, not. Many deaf dog owners including myself do not use them for number of reasons:
One of the main drawbacks of vibrating collars is their weight. They are too heavy for smaller dogs and pups (they weigh between 65g to 221g and they are as big as the average soap bar) and it does not really teach your pet to do anything, besides being an attention getter for the cue "look at me". Also, from my experience, it is never advisable to let your deaf dog roam free, as there is no guarantee that they will come back.
The collars available today come with a number of available features. Many of them have a tone feature that can help you track down your dog (although this can be substituted by tying a tiny bell to the collar) and it is ideal if you do not want to hear the sound of a bell when your dog walks or when your pet is sleeping.
If you consider buying a vibrating collar make sure that it is waterproof. If it is a combination vibration/shock system, make sure that the shock setting can be turned off. Ideally it should be small (5% of the total body weight of the pet, which is still a lot). Most of these collars come for medium to large sized dogs, have a long battery life, a tone setting and a long range.
Remember that a vibrating collar is not a magic wand and your dog will need to be trained regardless. Do not assume that your dog will come back to you if it is off the leash just because you press a button to make its collar vibrate. Your pet is deaf and it can never be let off-leash (unless in a safe fenced-in area) just because you are using a vibrating collar.
When you introduce the collar to the dog patience is the key. You have to let the dog get used to the feeling, especially as it is heavier than a regular collar. Fit it according to the instructions and let your pet wear it for short periods for the first three days so that he or she can get accustomed to it. DO NOT test the vibration until your pet has got used to wearing the collar as doing so could create a negative association to it.
Use treats to encourage the dog associating good feelings with wearing the collar. This can be done by giving them a treat when you put the collar on. Positive reinforcement always works well.
The very first time you introduce your pet to the collar you should put it on your dog, give him or her a treat and then take it off and give them another treat. Do this several times during the first day. On the second day put the collar on for about fifteen minutes and repeat the same process with the rewards, gradually increasing the length of time.
Always be with the pet when you do this. It is not recommended to leave them alone whilst wearing the collar as it can cause anxiety which could make the collar hazardous.
When you first introduce the vibration your dog may be startled, however some dogs simply ignore the vibration. Keep them close to you in this phase of the training and make sure there are no distractions.
The key is to make help your dog to understand that it is you who is causing the vibration and that you want their attention when you do so. Do not wait for the dog's response when the collar vibrates, at this stage just make the collar vibrate and immediately give a treat. It should be a case of page-treat-page-treat-page-treat until your dog realises that you want his or her attention.
Do this about ten times allowing your dog time to eat the treat with no rush and then stop. The first sessions should be about 5 minutes each, increasing to 10 minutes but not repeating more than three times in the first few days. In other words you should leave the collar on all day and repeat it 2 or 3 times, making sure your dog looks at you when receiving the vibration. If the dog does not look at you when receiving the vibration, you are probably moving too fast.
On the second or third day, after you page the dog do not give him or her a treat right away. If the dog looks up at you regardless, give an extra treat as an encouragement. This is an excellent sign and it means that they are learning.
To start with you should try letting your dog off the leash in the same room with you. Page the dog and when they look at you give the hand signal "come back", showing your hand with a treat in it and then give the treat. The goal is to train your dog to look at you every time and to find you when they cannot see you when paged. Only when your dog looks at you EVERY TIME you should attempt to try this. Let your dog roam the house, first in the same room, and then out of your visual range. Page him/her once. When he comes to you, give a treat and if he does not come, go get him/her. Do not repeatedly page him/her over and over, as frequent paging will cause the dog to forget the meaning of the vibration (the meaning is "food and come back to the owner") and it will become meaningless. Never punish the dog for not coming, rather, figure out why he/she is not responding, he/she may be too distracted by outside influences (a risk that can always happen with vibrating collars) ormaybe the treats you are using are not enticing enough.
About The Author
Priscilla Ross is an author, experienced deaf dog owner and canine trainer. Her second book 'Training A Deaf Dog' provides the ultimate guide to owning, training and living with a deaf dog as well as being packed with useful information, tips, contacts and a comprehensive mini-course in deaf dog signs to help you and your dog. Priscilla is an ardent supporter of canine wellness and combines her dog training and writing work with support for numerous canine charities. Visit her website for more articles, free bonuses and her deaf dog training book at http://www.caninedeafness.com