A dog trained to support a person with a hearing disability or deafness will alert the owner to sounds such as alarms, doorbells or door knocks, timers, approaching cars or people, babies crying or the owner’s name being said. The dog is trained so that it performs a different action for different sounds. For instance, when someone is at the door the dog could be trained to poke the owner with its nose, then lead her or him to the door. However, if the phone rings, the dog would perform a different action like use its paw to tap the owner then lead him or her to the phone.
Trained hearing dogs are not easy to get. Hearing dogs are usually bred to take on this job, and it takes several years of training. A dog will generally be between 2 and 3 years old before it is ready to assist a person. Sadly, 80% of dogs will fail the training. It takes a dog with a special personality and intelligence to graduate. Once the owner (called handler) acquires a dog, this person must constantly keep up the training or the dog could lose its skills and require retraining.
Not just anyone with a hearing disability or deafness will qualify for a dog. First, the person must be able to participate in training so that he or she can handle the dog and continue the training. The person must be able to prove that the dog’s needs will be taken care of including physical needs such as feeding, safe housing, grooming, exercising, and vetenary care.
By the way, others should avoid distracting a service dog by petting it or whistling at it or trying to get its attention in any other manner. People walking their dog should never approach a person with a hearing dog as the two dogs will want to “meet and greet” and the hearing dog must stay on the job and alert at all times.
The best breeds for hearing dogs are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Poodles and Cocker Spaniels. Candidates for this job must have a calm temperament yet be confident.
This wonderful photo is thanks to Drew Hays at Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/@drew_hays)
If you would like to learn more about Hearing dogs:
Hearing dogs 101 by Tara Mitrovic. https://www.chha.ca/hearing-dogs-101/
You Listen for Me – Paws with a Cause https://www.pawswithacause.org/what-we-do/assistance-dogs/hearing-dogs/#qualifications
Canine Companions Perform Important Functions for Hearing Impaired People – the American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/hearing-dogs/