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Hearing Dogs:

Also see:  Animal Signing: Canine Sign Language

Also see:  Hearing Ear Dogs


By Montana Hodges

Hearing Dogs: Unleashing Friends and Helpers

It isn't clear who was the first person to train a "Hearing Dog." The idea is that a dog is trained to recognize certain sounds and alert their owner who may be deaf or hard of hearing. Wherever and whenever the first few dogs were trained, the idea of a "hearing" companion caught on and spread across the world quickly. Some of the more prominent organizations such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the International Hearing Dog Organization (IHDI, which was originally a kennel) began official training programs in the late 1970's ( Both programs were inspired by deaf and hard of hearing individuals who requested a trained hearing dog.

The "Hearing Dog concept" ( is designed to create an assistance program for hearing impaired individuals. Generally the dogs are trained to recognize and react to certain sounds. Most commonly they are trained to respond to seven basic noises; fire/smoke alarm, telephone, door knock, doorbell, oven timer, alarm clock, name call, and, in select situations they can also be trained to respond to a babies cry. Depending on where the dog is trained or if their new owner continues their training, they can be trained to recognize up to 100 signs, so communication with their owners never seems to be a problem (Ogden, Paul, 1992). Hearing dogs are not necessary, but often add a convenience to a deaf household. One example is a response to smoke detector, although detectors cane be purchased that are designed with strobe lights, this may only apply to the room the detector is in. Jamie Berke of, also points out that "Flashing lights don't discourage criminals from stealing from homes either," whereas a barking dog may deter criminals (Berke, Jamie 2005).

Hearing dogs are also protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). This Act ensures that a hearing dog is allowed all the access in public places as other service dogs. These animals must be professionally trained, approved and registered as service animals. To qualify for a hearing dog that would receive service dog status by the ADA a person must be at least 18 years old, have at least a 65 decibel hearing loss (unaided) and live alone or with other people who are deaf or hard of hearing (up to one hearing person in the home may still be considered), the person must not have another dog in the house, and be physically willing and capable to care for the dog (

  Hearing Dogs come in many shapes and sizes. Usually they are matched on a personal basis by trainers and staff of each organization to meet an applicant's specific needs. It is unclear how many hearing dogs have been placed since the late 1970's. Dogs for the Deaf Incorporated has placed 2,500 rescued shelter dogs, the SPCA estimated that they have placed over 600 dogs; IHDI has placed more than 950 dogs. All of these organizations selected unwanted animals from local shelters, creating a unique relationship of a dog to provide a service to an owner that provides a home for an unwanted pet. 

Berke, Jamie, 2005, "Hearing Dogs for the Deaf- Can be a deaf persons best friend,"

Ogden, Paul, 1992, Chelsea: the Story of a Signal Dog, Brown, Little. Chicago, Illinois. 184 pp.

No specified author, 2005, International Hearing Dog, Inc., "General Information,"

No specified author, 2005, Dogs for the Deaf, Inc. "Rescuing Unwanted Dogs,"

No specified author, 2005. San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, "In a silent world, a Hearing Dog can make a big difference,"



Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
By Jenna Becker
May 22, 2014


Thesis: A hearing dog is just as important as another type of assistance dog, they alert their handler to important sounds, such as doorbells, smoke alarms, ringing telephones, alarm clocks, sirens, or a person calling their owners name.

I.        Introduction

a.       Who knew dogs assisted the Deaf?

b.       History on the organization "Hearing Dogs for Deaf People"

II.       How Hearing Dogs for Deaf People train their dogs

a.       Training at "Hearing Dogs for Deaf People"

III.      Hearing dog accessibility in the United States

a.       Where can hearing dogs go that others cannot

IV.      How do the dogs help?

a.       How they help at home

b.       How they help in public

V.       Conclusion


Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

It's not unusual to see a dog leading and assisting a blind person. You have probably seen a few of those trained dogs during the course of your life. But have you ever noticed a dog helping a Deaf person?

A hearing dog is just as important as another type of assistance dog, they alert their handler to important sounds, such as doorbells, smoke alarms, ringing telephones, alarm clocks, sirens, or a person calling their owners name.

In 1979, there was an international conference for veterinarians. (Spotlight) They brought up the idea of hearing dogs for Deaf people. A man named Bruce Fogle was at the conference and he was very interested in the idea of hearing dogs. When he got back home he wrote to the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and elaborated on the idea of hearing dogs. The RNID were very interested, but said they didn't have the money to further his ideas. However, eventually enough money was rounded up and the first training center was opened. The first training center was established at Chinnor in Oxfordshire, and the organization was officially launched in February 1982. Bruce Fogle now sits as the vice-chairman of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. (Spotlight)

Most hearing dogs are rescue dogs. They usually are cross-breeds ranging from large too small. The dogs must be friendly, smart, and keen. They undergo thorough training and are educated to respond to specific sounds. The dog is trained to identify the sound and figure out where it is coming from. The dog will discover the sound touch its owner and guide them to where the sound is coming from. Hearing Dogs for Deaf People are trained over a period of about 10 months to learn obedience, correct response to sounds, and how to respond to voice and hand signals. They begin training with a puppy walker to socialize the dog before being brought to one of the centers. Hearing dogs are familiarized to their potential owners early in their training. Later the pair will spend a short period of time in a specially designed room at the training center before going home. Even after the dog has proved to be a qualified hearing dog, there are regular checks to make sure that the dog is still up-to-standard.

 In the United States, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 allows hearing dogs, along with guide and service dogs, access to anywhere the general public is allowed. The Fair Housing Act also allows hearing dogs to visit and live in housing developments that have no pet's policies. Some state laws also provide protection or additional guidelines, such as fines or criminal penalties for interfering with or denying access to a hearing dog team. Hearing dogs often wear a bright orange leash and collar to identify them from regular dogs. Some also wear a cape or jacket. (Hearing Dog)

Hearing dogs are trained to alert people to household sounds that are essential for everyday safety and independence. The dogs are trained to make physical contact and lead their handler to the source of the sound. By providing sound awareness and companionship these dogs increase employability and provide freedom and independence to their handler. In public, the most important thing a hearing dog does for a person is give them an increased awareness of his or her environment. A hearing dog will not specifically alert their handler to sounds in public such as a siren or honking horn, however when a handler takes their dog into public, he or she will gain an awareness of their surroundings by being attentive to whatever their dog is responding to. When the dog turns to look at something it hears, the person will notice this and turn to grasp what is happening as well.

All assistance dogs are spectacular. The amount of intelligence it takes to become an assistance dog is unbelievable. These dogs are truly extraordinary and impressive. Not only do they assist their owners because they have been trained to do so, they also truly love their owners and want to please them. Nothing makes a dog feel more important and more loved than being an essential part of their owner's life. All dogs, no matter if they are assistance dogs or normal dogs, are astonishing creatures. 


"Hearing Dog." Dogs for the Deaf, 2014. Web. [] 20 May 2014.

Jay, Michelle. "Hearing Dogs for the Deaf." Start ASL. Start ASL, 2008. Web. 22 May 2014.


"Spotlight On...Hearing Dogs for Deaf People." Hearing Dogs for Deaf People Training Centre, n.d. Web. [] 22 May 2014.


Also see: "Canine Sign Language"

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