Hearing Dogs: Freedom & Independence For The Deaf And Hard of Hearing
by Wayne Tuttle
There are more than 1.5 million people in the United States and Canada who have self identified as being deaf or hard of hearing. Unfortunately, many of these people, as well as the general public do not know there are organizations and private companies who train dogs to help the deaf and hard of hearing.
These highly skilled dogs are called Hearing Dogs or Hearing Ear Dogs. These dogs are specifically trained to alert their owners/handlers to important sounds and they bring a new independence and confidence to their silent world.
For the most part, selected puppies are sent to foster families/puppy raisers for the first year of their life. The family is responsible for caring for them, obedience training and socialization skills. When the puppy has matured to approximately one year old, it is returned to the training facility for assessment and a thorough medical exam. If the adolescent dog is chosen, it will then begin a six-month training program to learn the necessary skills as a Hearing dog.
Typically, these special dogs are trained to make physical contact with their handler when they hear a specific or unusual noise. They will lead the person to the source of the noise and either sit or paw at the handler. These unique dogs will respond to a telephone or door bell ring, a knock at the door, a baby's cry, a boiling kettle, egg timer, a micro-wave oven and other household sounds. Once the Hearing dog has completed their simulated home environment training, then the new owner/handler undertakes a rigorous two to three week program. During this time, they will learn how to work with and bond with their new companion/ Service Dog. Most of these dogs can be trained to respond to hand signals if the handler is unable to speak in a clear enough voice for the dog to understand.
You may recognize one of these skillful dogs by a colorful cape with the words Service Dog, Hearing Dog or Hearing Ear Dog embroidered on a small patch. Many people are curious about what Hearing Dogs can do for people who are hard of hearing or deaf when they're in public. However, there are a few important rules to remember if you come in contact with one of these Hearing Dogs. Never distract, or touch a dog that is wearing a special vest or harness. Always, ask for permission to talk to or pat a working dog. Usually, the handler will prefer that you don't talk or touch their dog, because it may break the dog's concentration of being in a "work mode".
To the deaf and hard of hearing, freedom and independence is enhanced by the love and dedication of a Hearing Dog. If you or someone you know is deaf or hard of hearing, take a moment to view some of our Useful Resources dedicated to training these wonderful dogs.
About The Author: Tina & Wayne Tuttle are dedicated pet parents, animal advocates, experienced dog handlers and the owners of two successful on-line stores.