Hearing Dogs was launched at the world famous Crufts dog show in 1982. Since then we have created over 1,600 life-changing partnerships between deaf people and hearing dogs in the UK. There are currently over 750 working partnerships in the country.
We train hearing dogs to alert deaf children and adults to important household sounds and danger signals such as the alarm clock, doorbell, telephone and smoke alarm - providing independence, confidence and valuable companionship.
Hearing dogs alert their deaf recipients to household sounds by touching them with a paw or nudging with a nose to gain attention. The recipient then asks the dog 'what is it?' by voice and/or hand command and then the hearing dog leads the recipient to the source of the sound. For danger signals such as the smoke alarm, the hearing dog will alert the recipient in the same way, but when asked 'what is it?' the dog will lie down to indicate danger.
The breeds we train to become hearing dogs are typically Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. We do train a small number of Labrador crosses and Cocker crosses alongside these breeds in order to ensure we have the right dog to match each and all of our applicants.
We have our own breeding scheme and adopt puppies from breeders to train. We also adopt from rescue centres as and when a suitable puppy is identified.
The training of a hearing dog takes around 18 months, consisting of initial puppy socialisation training (eight weeks to 12-14 months of age) with volunteers before moving onto sound work training at one of our two Training Centres. During this period a suitable recipient for each dog is identified. The recipient and hearing dog then spend a period of time training together before qualifying as an official partnership.
Hearing dogs are easily recognisable by their distinctive burgundy jacket and lead slips, which helps to identify the recipient’s otherwise ‘invisible’ disability, bringing increased peace of mind for the deaf person. Deafness can be a very isolating and lonely disability, a hearing dog can offer a life-transforming practical alternative to technical equipment – particularly for those deaf people who find such equipment restricting – with the added benefit of giving the recipient greater independence, increased confidence, companionship and a feeling of security.
Five key points about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People:
- Hearing dogs are provided to deaf people at no charge.
- The Charity receives no government funding. We rely on the generosity of individuals, groups, companies and other organisations.
- Each dog is trained to the specific needs of the deaf individual they have been matched to, creating a life-changing partnership.
- The breeding, training, placement and life-long care of each hearing dog costs around £45,000.
- It takes 12-14 months for a puppy to complete its socialising training and a further 16-18 weeks for a dog to complete soundwork training.