Perhaps the best known worker dogs are sheepdogs and guide dogs for the blind. However, there are also many hearing dogs whose job it is to help the deaf. A hearing dog is taught to respond to the sounds chosen by the individual applicant…such as responding to a knock on the door, the whistle of a kettle or the ring of a telephone or alarm clock.
The happenings that would go undetected by the deaf person were it not for the help of their dog in drawing attention to them.
Hearing dogs are trained to alert people to household noises that are necessary for safety and for a person to live independently. They are trained to make physical contact with their owner and then, if needed, to lead the person to the source of the sound. By providing awareness and a great deal of companionship, these wonderful dogs enhance a person’s life and allow a person to have freedom and independence.
They are of great aid, not just in the home but do amazing things in public as well. The most important task of a hearing dog, in public, is to increase awareness of his or her environment. When the hearing dog turns to look at something…whether this be a siren or a honking horn of a car, it causes the owners to notice and see what is happening.
How Hearing Dogs are Trained
The training of this special type of service dog usually takes anywhere from 4 to 7 months. During this time the dog’s temperament will be evaluated, they will go through intensive obedience, socializing and sound training. While many pets are given treats to encourage learning, hearing dogs are taught to work for either toys or simply affection.
Hearing dogs are trained to respond to common sounds that occur in the home or outside environment. This includes fire alarms, smoke alarms, the ring of a telephone, the sound of an incoming text on a cell phone, oven timers, doorbells, knocks on the door, alarm clocks and when it is needed, other sounds such as the cry of a baby who has woken from a nap.
Once a hearing dog is placed with their new owner, they will most often become aware of additional sounds that apply specifically to their new environment. This can include the beep of a microware, the alert noise that a washer’s load is done, etc.
The limitations of a hearing dog are if a noise only is heard very randomly and very inconsistently… for example, he or she may not react to the buzzing noise of the emergency broadcast system alert on the television, since it does not happen often.
In most cases, a trainer will bring a certain dog to a new owner in order to provide some one-on-one training to help the dog get settled and to go over any questions that may arise. In many cases, this can last from 3 to 6 days…and reputable companies will have the standing offer of providing lifelong follow-up.
Interesting Training Note: Work must always be interrupted by a dog as play. When a sniffer dog is being trained, his reward is to retrieve. When a young dog retrieves a package of illegal drugs, he will be allowed to have a game with the package, but that will be the only game he is allowed when he is working. A dog’s instincts are channeled into retrieving a particular scent…The dog gets every individual scent and breaks it down in its mind until it finds the one that it knows that his or her master desires…The dog builds up a “scent picture”. Every picture given to him or her includes the particular narcotic or explosive that the dog has been trained to find as a common denominator.