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The popularity of seeing eye dogs is undisputed. However, now there’s a new dog on the block: the hearing dog. These types of dogs – usually Labradors and Golden Retrievers are best suited to this job — work in similar ways to seeing eye dogs in that they assist their owners in day-to-day living. The last decade has seen these types of dogs becoming more and more popular as companions for deaf or hearing-impaired people. Hearing dogs are able to be trained over the course of many months to help those suffering from hearing loss. Check out the training and benefits involved, as well as how you can go about procuring your own hearing dog.

How do Hearing Dogs Assist the Deaf?

These dogs must go through three weeks or so of intense training and care to ensure the proper fit between owner and dog. This is so the two parties can truly connect on the same level. After the training, hearing dogs have the skills to offer many helpful services to their deaf or hearing-impaired partners. How do they do this? They can pick up on sounds and then “tell” their owners. These sounds may signal danger, such as with a smoke alarm, or a situation that must be addressed, such as the timer on the oven or the doorbell. Dogs have the ability to further communicate other situations over time.

When you take the example of a fire truck wailing down a busy street, the owner’s hearing dog won’t necessarily alert his owner to this specific danger but will show him through his tensed body language that something is afoot. Over time, the dog will be able to detect and respond to additional sounds as they pertain to certain situations.

Requirements to Obtain Your Own Dog

You need to meet a few requirements in order to start the process. First off, only those 18 or older can have a hearing dog. Once you fill out the application to get started, your home will be assessed to ensure it can comfortably accommodate the dog. You should also know a close friend or family member who can go through the in-home training with you and the dog. Canine training and follow-up annually is necessary, to learn additional specialized training and tracking activities. In the end, you will find yourself in the company of a service dog who is truly there to work for you, providing a friend in the process.

Training Regimen: What’s Involved?

Specialized training courses have been created to help the hearing dog learn all the signals and prompts necessary to provide services for a hearing-impaired partner. This four- to six-month training regimen is intensive, but in the end, the hearing dog will adopt the correct temperament to be a good match for this type of job. Dogs are also trained to react to certain sounds and alert their owners in systematic ways. Additional situations will warrant additional alerts as dog and owner get to know each other further.