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Canine Companions for Independence:
"Let’s Hear it for Dogs!"
By Janelle Dalzell
Charles Schultz, a dog lover himself and the creator of Snoopy founded Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) located in Santa Rosa California, in 1975. CCI is the largest assistance dog organization in the world. According to Keith Reid, a professional trainer at CCI, he insists dogs make the best service animals for the Deaf and hard of hearing population due to the fact that dogs can hear up to 45,000 Hertz, which is ten times higher than that of a human. Dogs can hear up to 200 meters away, while humans can hear only a distance of 20 meters. David Morgan states, “This is possible due to the fact that a dog’s ears can move, tilt and rotate unlike humans, therefore their hearing is far better than ours.”
The training begins as soon as the puppies are born, and sometimes even prior to birth. As puppies, they are trained by professionals in many different areas, such as obedience, socialization, and sound training. Dogs learn these skills by responding to the voice or hand signals for sitting, staying, lying down, walking in control near the client and coming when the dog is signaled. A hearing dog is trained to hear and be aware of the sounds around them. As puppies, they are expected to learn up to 40 commands, and respond to these commands 90 percent of the time within 15 seconds of the command. Dogs learn with repetitive, positive reinforcement. Once the dogs master all of the training, they graduate from the program, and then are united with their handler. This is a very exciting time for the dog and the handler.
Hearing Dogs are tested for a calm temperament, their exquisite hearing, and willingness to work. Some of the important jobs the hearing dog provides are, alerting the client to a knock at the door, smoke detector alarms, phone ringing, a baby crying, the oven timer, the microwave and even the completion of a washer and dryer. Hearing dogs also work outside of the home, such as, alerting the Deaf person to such sounds as, traffic approaching, someone calling their name, sirens, and general sounds of everyday activity. One of the most important things a hearing dog provides to the handler in public is an increased awareness of his or her environment. Hearing dogs communicate with their Deaf partners by making some sort of physical contact with them and leading them to the sound. These dogs provide greatly increased freedom and companionship. Emily Williams, one of the many volunteers at CCI that prepares the puppies for the day they meet their handler says, “The dogs are there to assist the person, not to interfere with their daily activities.” “She is my ear’s. I don’t think of her as my dog, I think of her as my best friend.”-Poppy, owner of hearing dog, Maddy.
To receive a hearing dog, one must first fill out an application along with a $500.00 deposit, which ensures the organization that the person is committed to the program. Once the application is approved, the organization starts the process of finding a dog that is the right fit. Each dog is then trained in specific tasks that will help their individual handler. Finally, the big day comes. Graduation! At graduation, the trainer presents the trained dog to his/her handler. When they are united with their dog, the handler receives a 1:1 training to teach them how to enforce the training their dog has already received. Being consistent with the training of the dog is very important. A service dog, on average, works about 8 years, then will retire to become a beloved pet.
While The Deaf and hard of hearing community perceives themselves as having a condition that does not need to be fixed, the job of a hearing service dog is NOT to fix an individual, it is to give their owner a sense of confidence, safety, happiness and friendship. A hearing service dog may not be for everyone, but to others, they may change their lives forever.
EukanubaEurpoe. “Hearing Dogs.” CCI Hearing Dogs, 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2017. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYCXn0IXRFA
Davis, Marcie and Melissa Bunnell. “Working Like Dogs.” Alpine Publications. N.p, 26 Jan. 2011 Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
Mundell, Paul. “Canines for Independence.” Homepage. Jack Perice, 10 Nov. 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
Canine Sign Language
Dogs and Sign Language
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