Spotlight on.....Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

A Brief History of Hearing Dogs

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People was started in America. In 1979, there was an international conference for vets. At the conference, they mentioned Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. A man called Bruce Fogle was at the conference. He was very interested in the Hearing Dogs. When he got back home he wrote to the RNID. He explained about the Hearing Dogs. The RNID were very interested, but said they didn't have enough money. Eventually enough money was found from several different places, and the first training centre was set up. The first training centre was at Chinnor in Oxfordshire, and the scheme was officially launched in February 1982. The scheme was launched at Crufts. Bruce Fogle is now the Vice-Chairman of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.

A man called Anthony Blunt was given the role of putting the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People scheme into operation. He was the first administrator and the first trainer. Anthony Blunt is now the Director General. Anthony had been a Police Dog Trainer/Instructor for 30 years. The first thing he had to do was train a dog for himself! It was the very first Hearing Dog in this country, and was called Favour. Favour was a rescue dog from the National Canine Defence League. When Favour was fully trained, Anthony travelled around the UK giving talks, demonstrations and raising money. For the next 4 years he trained all the new Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. In 1983, a purpose built centre was opened at Lewknor. In 1986, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People became a charity. So far, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People has trained about 400 dogs, and now has a second training centre at Cliffe, near Selby.

Training a Hearing Dog

Most Hearing Dogs for Deaf People are rescue dogs. They are usually cross-breeds, and they can be any size, large or small. They have to be friendly, intelligent and inquisitive. They undergo intensive training and are specially trained to respond to sounds. The dog will identify the sound, and where it is coming from. It will find and touch its owner, then show them where the sound is coming from. [this is called TOUCH and TELL] There is one sound that a Hearing Dog for Deaf People treats differently. If the fire alarm/smoke detector goes off, the dog will alert its owner by touching them, then lie down flat. This is so that the owner knows that it is the fire alarm, and not another sound.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People are trained over a period of about 10 months, starting off with intial training with a puppy walker to socialise the dog, before being trained at one of the centres. Dogs are introduced to their prospective owners early in their training, and will later spend a short period of time with their new owner in a specially designed flat at the training centre before leaving the centre with their new owner. Training continues once the dog leaves with its new owner, and the dog is still a 'trainee' Hearing Dog for Deaf People until it passes its 'final exams'. Even after the dog has qualified there are regular checks to make sure that the dog is still up-to-standard, and further training is supplied if necessary.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People are a type of assistance dog, as are Guide Dogs for the Blind. Assistance Dogs are allowed to go into places where dogs are not normally allowed to go - for example, supermarkets and cafes. You can identify a Hearing Dog for Deaf People by its yellow coat which has 'Hearing Dog' clearly marked on it, and also on the lead.

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Visitors are welcome at both the training centres - but you must let them know you are coming first! Visitors are usually welcomed on Thursday afternoons only. They prefer that you arrive at about 2pm, and the visit lasts for about an hour. It includes a video, a tour of the kennels, and a demonstration of what the Hearing Dogs can do. There is no charge for the visit, but a donation is appreciated. The maximum number of visitors welcomed at a time is 20. You must not take any pet dogs with you.

Please contact the centres for more information. Lewknor (Oxfordshire) 01844 353898 Cliffe (North Yorkshire) 01757 638666

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For more information:

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People Training Centre
London Road (A40),
Lewknor Oxon,
Tel: 01844 353898 (Voice and Minicom)
Fax: 01844 353099
Charity No:293358
Patron: HRH The Princess Royal

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