“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras (photographer and writer)
This is just one of the countless quotes about dogs and the role they play in our lives. These days, that role isn’t always just companionship or herding other animals either. The term “working dog” has taken on a whole new meaning with dogs trained to assist police in their duties, those trained as therapy dogs and those trained as service dogs to help people with disabilities such as the blind. There are now even hearing assistance dogs trained especially to help those with hearing impairment.
What is a hearing assistance dog?
Not just any dog can be a service dog. Certified assistance dogs go through extensive specialized training, often taking up to two years to complete. While breeds of service dogs may vary, their characteristics do not. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC):
“Service dogs must be handler-focused, desensitized to distractions, and highly trained to do specific tasks. They should not be distracted by the public, as they should focus solely on their owner when working.”
These hard-working dogs generally wear identifying vests and are allowed to accompany their owners wherever they may need to go.
A hearing assistance dog is specially trained to alert their owners to specific sounds, such as alarm clocks, doorbells, kitchen timers, fire or burglar alarms, or telephones by making physical contact with a nudge of the arm or leg. Once they’ve alerted their owner to the sound, these dogs then guide the person to the source of the sound.
Finding a match
While many organizations train service dogs, some are focused more specifically on training hearing assistance dogs. One such organization is Dogs for Better Lives. According to the organization, one size does not fit all when it comes to hearing assistance dogs. In general, they train smaller to medium-sized breeds such as terriers, poodles, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, and cocker spaniels to be hearing assistance dogs, but they also take into account factors such as the environments in which the dog will be working (primarily in the home or in public) and the owner’s lifestyle. These considerations can make for a good match that benefits both the owner and the service dog.
Who is eligible for a hearing assistance dog?
While hearing assistance dogs can be life-changing for those with hearing loss, not everyone is eligible for one. Generally, most organizations look for those who:
Are deaf or profoundly hard of hearing
Have independence in mobility
Demonstrate the ability to manage and care for a dog
Have the adequate vision to observe, intervene and manage a dog’s behavior
Commitment to work, play, exercise and care for the dog daily
If you believe a hearing assistance dog could help you live more independently and more confidently and you meet the recommended eligibility guidelines above, contact Dogs for Better Lives or a similar service dog organization today to begin the application process. The right canine companion could change your life!