Yesterday when I was rushing back for 5.10pm to feed the pooches, I ran into this furry guy and I could not resist donating some money and taking a cheeky picture. The charity this fluffy dog was raising money for was Hearing dogs for deaf people and this was their ‘sponsor a puppy’ charity day. 🙂
After being launched at the Crufts dog show in 1982, the charity has gone from strength to strength and to date, they have created over 1600 life-changing partnerships, pairing hearing dogs with deaf people to help them with day to day things that we often ourselves take for granted. At the moment, there are over 750 working partnerships throughout the UK.
This national charity trains hearing dogs to alert deaf children and adults to household sounds and danger signals such as the alarm clock, doorbell, telephone and the very important smoke alarm. How do the dogs alert their owners I hear you ask? Well, the dogs alert their deaf owners 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. How clever is that?! I wish my two could do that – all they do I bark at the poor postman, and bark at people walking by the house, and bark at flies that annoy them as they make that buzzing sound. Ok – they sometimes sit, paw and beg (mainly for treats of course – you should see what they would do for a sausage!). I once spoke to a dog behaviourist about why my girl barks more than my boy, and if I should put a stop to it (she barks at the slightest stranger movement, barks at friends who come to visit, bark at people walking past the house etc etc) and the behaviourist said under no circumstance should we discourage it – she is an ‘alert’ dog. So while she won’t be able take down an intruder (she’s tiny people!) she can alert us to their presence, and then we take it from there. She’s a gem my little girl!
The usual breeds that become hearing dogs are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Sometimes, they also train Labrador crosses and Cocker crosses alongside these breeds too. Yesterday, I met a Papillon who was a hearing dog!!! She looked just like my girl and I was so proud that the breed was helping a deaf person. Here is a picture of her below!! Too cute. Suffice to say, I stopped for a stroke (5 strokes) and a cuddle (3 cuddles) and plenty of kisses (I won’t bother lying about that one) 🙂
The charity also have their own breeding scheme and adopt puppies from breeders to train, sometimes, they also adopt from rescue centres as and when a suitable puppy is identified – you never really know which puppy you will find at the rescue centres and this charity gives some puppies in the rescue centres a second chance to help vulnerable people which I think is awesome.
Typically, the training of a hearing dog takes around 18 months, and this consists of initial puppy socialisation training (eight weeks to 12-14 months of age) with their volunteers before moving onto sound work training at one of their Training Centres. During this period a suitable recipient for each dog is identified. The recipient and hearing dog then spends a period of time training together before qualifying as an official partnership.
Puppy socialising is so important – let me tell you my experience. When we had the boy, we decided to send him to puppy socialising classes for 6 months. He would be picked up at 9am every morning and would be home by 5pm every day – like puppy school really! By day, he would be with about 10 other dogs in a farm in Kent socialising with other puppies of the same age. The boy is very friendly, loves people especially children, likes other dogs (except ones that try to bite him, chase him, sniff him too much and hump him), and he has a constant waggy tail. When we got our girl, we assumed that because we already had the boy, she could socialise with him (and they walked in the park every day with our dog walker and met dogs along the way) so we didn’t send her to socialising class. I think that was a small mistake as while she is a lovely little doggy (wouldn’t change her for the world) and what I call a ‘proper’ little dog, (chases balls, plays catch, chases squirrels) she is petrified of every other dog and is not the biggest fan of people, she’s typically jumpy at every sound and woe betide another dog that sniffs around her, she’s fast to run away! (she will leave Usain Bolt in the dust!) She’s the type of dog that is suspect of everyone but us and would take hours to warm up to anyone who has come into the house or near the house (this after barking the house down to alert us of someone other than us in the house!) – and while I understand this might just be in her nature, I do think that us not socialising her properly contributed to her behaviour. She has got a lot better with the postman mind you – she has come to realise that he just wants to drop some letter off and not annoy her! Having said that, I know other people who have not sent their dogs to socialising classes and their dogs are fine – I guess It’s just a case of different dogs, different temperaments eh? (Mind you I don’t know how happy I would be if I had male dogs constantly sniffing around me hahaha!) 🙂
You can recognise a hearing dog by their distinctive burgundy jacket and lead slips, which helps to identify the recipient’s otherwise ‘invisible’ disability – how many times I’ve just started chatting to someone with their dog, only to realise a little later that they were deaf after bending down to stroke their dog and realising that it’s a working dog helping someone in need. A lady we know at the park is deaf and she has a trained Westie (West Highland Terrier) to help her – you would never know she was deaf until you met her, (we try and do sign language and sometimes I carry post-it’s in my pocket for her to write on) her dog Post really helps her with her day to day tasks – he especially loves barking when the postman arrives apparently!
I imagine it must be very hard being deaf, it can get lonely and sometimes, I imagine scary, as all your other senses are amplified. That’s why I am so happy that dogs can play an important part in helping those who have this disability. I imagine the companionship these dogs provide is also priceless. This pays its due to the age old saying, a dog really is man’s best friend and will be your lifelong loyal companion till the end of his days if you’ll have him as one.
Here are five key points about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People you probably didn’t know;
- 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 (reacting to sound)
It costs £3 a month to sponsor a puppy for someone in need and after reading about all the good work the charity does, I am not hesitating to donate. Well done guys and keep up the awesome work!
To read more about this amazing charity click here
To donate towards sponsoring a puppy that in turn is going to help change the life of someone deaf in the future click here
*Stats and information taken from the hearing dogs for deaf people website.