Our history

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People has been through an incredible journey to get where we are today. We were founded at Crufts in 1982, but there was nothing glamorous or prestigious about our beginnings. Our dogs were trained in the living room of founding member Gill Lacey, and we had just three members of staff.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Gill, our two founders Bruce Fogle and Lady Beatrice Wight – and our first dog trainer Tony Blunt – Hearing Dogs had a slow but prosperous start. Every year since, Hearing Dogs has grown in number and size, and today we’re helping thousands of deaf people across the UK.

Learn about our journey below.

1982

Hearing Dogs for the Deaf is officially launched at Crufts as a three-year pilot scheme by Bruce Fogle and Lady Beatrice Wright with help from Tony Blunt and Gill Lacey. Our first dog was a gorgeous rescue dog called Favour.

1983

All Hearing Dogs' operations – including dog training – took place in founding member Gill Lacey’s living room. Lady became the first hearing dog to be matched with a deaf person in the UK. 

1986

With over 20 hearing dogs now placed and a further 26 deaf people waiting to be matched, Hearing Dogs was granted full charitable status and we bought our first property in Lewknor, Oxfordshire.

1990

The Charity has doubled in size since 1986 and we placed the 100th hearing dog, Spring, in this year.

1992

We were delighted when HRH The Princess Royal accepted our invitation to become our Royal Patron, and she holds the title to this day.

1994

HRH The Princess Royal opened our northern training grounds, The Beatrice Wright Centre, in North Yorkshire – which relocated to East Yorkshire in 2009. The umbrella association Assistance Dogs (UK) was launched.

1996

Hearing Dogs for the Deaf changed its name to Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. We published our first pages on the web and people were able to contact us by email for the first time. Our co-founder and Honorary President Lady Wright was awarded an MBE.

1999

We opened our main office and training centre – The Grange – in Saunderton, Buckinghamshire. This renovated farmhouse and outbuildings is still home to our head office and training centre today.

2002

Hearing Dogs celebrated its 20th birthday by unveiling our new logo and new burgundy hearing dog jackets.

2004

Hearing dog Ria became our 1,000th hearing dog placed with a deaf person.

2012

Our 30th anniversary was marked with another rebrand of our old hearing dogs jackets and a new, more modern logo.

What’s next for Hearing Dogs?

Although we are very proud of the progress we have made in the last 30 years, there are still thousands of deaf people who could benefit from a life-changing hearing dog.

Do you want to play a part in Hearing Dogs’ future? Here are a few ways you can help us change a deaf person’s life for ever. Thank you.

Find out how you can help