It took some digging but I found a good article in “Off Lead” magazine, the September-October 2006 issue titled “Visual Cues are Key to Training a Deaf Dog,” by Ann Brightman.
First, let’s cover the possible causes. Dogs can be born deaf. Interestingly, a number of these pups are born white or have a mottled coat like Dalmatians and white Great Danes, according to Brightman. This is something to keep in mind when selecting a white pup for your household. You might want the pup tested for deafness before you purchase it.
Another cause can be an infection in the ear canal that does not respond to medical treatment. Some dogs have such chronic infections that the veterinarian will clean, disinfect and pack the ear canal and then sew the opening closed
The third cause of deafness is old age. It is a common ailment for seniors, but it doesn’t mean their lives are over. One of my dogs went deaf at the age of 13 but we got along fine since she was already trained to respond to hand signals.
Brightman says adopting a dog with hearing loss isn’t for everyone. It takes extra time in the beginning to teach the animal what each hand signal means and do it in a pleasant manner that makes the dog look forward to the training sessions. Once it learns to focus on you for direction, training becomes a game for both of you.
It is important for the trainer/owner to remember the dog is still a dog with all the instincts of hearing dogs. He needs to run, play and investigate — and to learn. Brightman frowns on owners who adopt deaf dogs only to keep them closely confined with little or no socialization. Deaf dogs compensate for their lack of hearing.
In training, Brightman recommends the clicker method using a flashlight with a button on/off switch so it flashes. She says do not use a laser light. The obedience commands of “come,” “sit,” “stay,” and others will have to be communicated with gestures and hand signals. I used the hand signals recommended by the American Kennel Club for the utility obedience exercises, which also included "heel," “down” and “stand.”
Brightman says to “train with your back to a wall, or even in a corner, so that your dog is able to focus more exclusively on you.” You don’t want visual distractions during a training session.
Smile during training and reward with small treats since the dog cannot hear your verbal praise. Also remember to keep the dog socialized. Deaf dogs of any age do well in obedience classes since they learn by watching the other dogs work. “Select a trainer who is open to helping people with deaf dogs,” Brightman writes.