As part of International Assistance Dog Week, we will be profiling a different UK assistance dog charity each day. We have also spoken to Support Dogs on The Yorkshire Vets Podcast this week, so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled! Our fourth charity profile is on Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
Who are Hearing Dogs for Deaf People?
Hearing Dogs was founded at Crufts in 1982, with a three-year pilot scheme. In the early days all charity activities, including training, took place in co-founder Gill Lacey’s living room. Within 4 years, they had placed 20 hearing dogs and had a further waiting list of 26. he charity grew quickly and in 2004, they placed their 1,000th hearing dog.
What do they do?
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People provide dogs to deaf people across the UK. The charity train their dogs to alert their owner to important audible signals that they would otherwise be unaware of. These include things such as doorbells, text message alerts and fire alarms. As you can imagine, these dogs can have a huge impact on the people they work with. The stages involved in providing hearing dogs are as follows.
Hearing Dogs run their own breeding programme. This enables them to breed dogs with the required traits for work as a hearing dog. It also allows them to breed dogs for specific situations that people may be in, such as smaller dogs for people living in flats.
Once the puppies are old enough to leave their mother, they go to live with volunteer puppy socialisers. These volunteers look after the pups up to around 16 months of age. During this time, they learn basic training skills. They also become acclimatised to a variety of environments that they may encounter during their working life. They attend regular classes throughout their time with a socialiser, which prepares them for the next stage of their training.
At around 16 months of age, hearing dog specific training begins. This trains the dogs to alert their owner to audio signals. It is also at this stage that dogs begin to be matched with owners. This allows for the dog to be trained specifically towards the needs of a particular person. This training has to be very thorough, as the dog may need to guide their owner to a specific location or indicate the level of urgency that the sound may have.
Once training is complete, the dog will spend its first week with a new owner. This first week is spent with a trainer on hand to ensure that the transition to a full time working role is as smooth as possible. After this first week, the dog will now live with and assist their new owner full-time. Throughout the working life of a hearing dog, the charity will be in regular contact with the owner. This ensures that the dog maintains the high standard of support that they were trained to provide.
How can I help?
Hearing Dogs receive no government funding. As a result, they are always on the look out for volunteers, campaigners, donors and fundraisers. If you would like to help, please click on one of the following links for further information.