Hearing dogs

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We have all heard of dogs for the blind, but have you heard of dogs for deaf people?

Being the intelligent animals they are, dogs can help us in all parts of our lives. For years man’s best friend has been assisting those with sight difficulties, illnesses and for emotional support such as therapy dogs. So it made sense their big brains be put to use helping people hard of hearing. There are now hundreds of dogs around the UK acting as a set of ears for their owner.

 

One of the biggest charities in the UK right now is Hearing Dogs, launched at the Crufts dog show in 1982.

They train hearing dogs to alert their deaf/hard of hearing owner to important household sounds and danger signals such as the alarm clock, doorbell, telephone and smoke alarm – providing them with independence, confidence and a best friend of course!

Do they have what it takes?

How do we know which dog makes the cut? The obvious attributes are looked for: alert, energetic and able to concentrate. Although a dog with the attention span of a goldfish can be just as endearing, hearing dogs need to be switched on. They must possess a calm temperament that allows them to remain unfazed in unfamiliar or stressful atmospheres.

Of course they need to be sociable, able to get along with other people, dogs and pets. It is the hearing dog trainer’s job to bring out these positive qualities in a dog. However, if the trainer sees a particular dog’s temperament is not suited to the work of a hearing dog, then they will not continue with the training program.

 

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Super dogs in training

  • Training generally takes four to six months of evaluation, obedience training, socialization, and sound training. The dogs are taught to work for toys and affection.
  • Hearing Dogs are trained to respond to various sounds: fire and smoke alarms, the telephone, oven timer, alarm clock, doorbell/door knock, and name call.
  • Once placed with their deaf partner in crime, the dogs pick up other necessities along the way. They learn to respond to additional sounds such as the microwave, kettle, and washer/dryer. Hearing Dogs can be taught to alert people to any repetitive sound that they deem important to them, they just need it to be practiced regularly. If a sound is inconsistent or not frequent enough to practice, it is hard for the dog to learn the new sound.

 

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Social butterflies 

Hearing dogs play a significant role in the lives of their deaf partner. They give members of the deaf community more freedom and security in public. This freedom allows them to stay connected with the deaf culture by meeting others with the same experiences.

In addition, to helping people navigate their way through busy streets, hearing dogs can give a person with deafness the confidence needed to travel to unfamiliar places. With the help of a hearing dog adventures can be explored, experiences discovered and points on the bucket list ticked off.

 

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The dog owner must learn how to interact with their hearing dog. Learning to work with a service dog is vital for keeping up with the dog’s training.

Not surprisingly, many people see their hearing dogs as more than just a practical tool, but rather a loyal companion and friend.

 

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