Hearing dogs are dogs trained to assist the hearing-impaired. The type of training they receive is to alert their hearing-impaired owners to things like:
- A doorbell or knock at the door
- Telephone ringing
- Someone calling their owner’s name
- Alarm clock
- Baby crying
- Appliances (microwave, tea kettle, washer/dryer)
The amazing thing about hearing dogs is they have to listen for everything but not respond to every sound. For example, a deaf owner would need their dog to alert them to a telephone ring since they can’t hear it. A service dog (who’s aiding someone with a disability) might be trained to bring the phone to their owner. The video below shows some more differences between the jobs of a hearing dog and a service dog.
What breeds make good hearing dogs?
Some organizations that train hearing dogs find some breeds are better than others to be hearing dogs. Cocker spaniels, miniature poodles, mixed breed Cockapoos, labradors and golden retrievers are good candidates because they are obedient and do well in most situations (including being part of a family).
How can you recognize a hearing dog?
In the US, hearing dogs often wear a bright orange leash and collar. Some wear a cape or vest. In the UK, most hearing dogs are trained and funded by the same organization (Hearing Dogs for Deaf People). They wear a burgundy jacket with the logo of charity.
The Lions Club International of Australia trains hearing dogs in Australia. The dogs wear a bright orange leash, collar, harness, and carry an ID.
In Australia and Japan, the dog must wear a bright orange leash, collar, and harness in public and the owner must carry an issued ID. They are legally permitted access to any locations that are open to members of the public, so long as they are with their handler.
For a dog to be an accredited hearing dog, they must meet training requirements set by Assistance Dogs International. A dog can be trained to be a hearing dog but without this accreditation, they aren’t allowed the rights of a service pet in some countries. In the US and Australia, an accredited dog can go anywhere with their owner that is open to the public – even if animals aren’t normally allowed.
Some countries don’t have hearing dogs because the idea hasn’t caught on (it’s only been around in the US since 1975). Some country’s laws are too inhibitive for hearing dogs. The benefit to the owner is limited if the dog can’t go everywhere the owner needs to.
Training a Dog to Alert Deaf People to Everyday Household Sounds
Actor John Barrowman goes deaf for a day and gets the assistance of a hearing dog
Hearing Dog Organizations
These sites have more information on assistance programs, hearing dogs, how to donate, and gift shops.