Pups to Hearing Dogs
At The Grange training centre breed we breed our own dogs, but occasionally pups are purchased from reputable breeders that we build good relationships with. What we are looking for are dogs of consistently outstanding temperament and health.
Breeds commonly used are; English Cocker Spaniel, Labrador, Poodle and Golden Retriever, as these dogs respond well to life as a Hearing Dog. We also cross some breeds, ie. Cocker Spaniel X Poodle (or Cockerpoo!!), these are ideal for people with allergies as they do not moult.
Puppies from the breeding scheme are born and live in the homes of breeding scheme volunteers, until around eight weeks old when they move on to a puppy socialiser.
Volunteer puppy socialisers are vital to enable the Charity to continue to create hearing dog partnerships.
- Each hearing dog puppy lives in the home of a puppy socialising volunteer from around eight weeks old until they are about one year old.
- Puppy socialisers introduce the pup to all the different sights, sounds and environments that it will meet as a working hearing dog – this includes taking them to town centres, into shops and on public transport.
- Socialisers also attend fortnightly puppy classes run by the Charity, to teach their puppy basic obedience such as sit, stay and recall.
We are always looking for more puppy socialisers, so if you think this is something you would like to do, please contact Victoria Leedham at the Volunteering office at The Headquarters. South Hants has two puppies training classes.
- At around one year old, puppies come to one of our two training centres – The Grange or The Beatrice Wright Centre – for their advanced training. This is known as “Soundwork”.
- Dogs are taught to respond to household sounds such as the doorbell, telephone, alarm clock and smoke alarm. Once matched with a deaf person from the waiting list, they are trained in the specific sounds that they wish the dog to respond to. For example a baby crying or something specific to their employment. Soundwork training takes about 18 weeks on average.
- Hearing dogs alert in different ways dependant on the size of the dog and nature of the sound.
- Smaller dogs (like Cocker Spaniels) alert by touching the person with one or two paws and then leading to the source of the sound e.g. the telephone or front door.
- Larger breeds (like Labradors) mainly alert by nudging with their nose before leading to the sound. This is just in case they are a little “heavy-pawed”.
- To signal danger (such as the smoke alarm) all hearing dogs are trained to lie down after alerting, so they do not lead the deaf person towards the danger.
Creating a partnership for life
- Towards the end of the training, a hearing dog is matched to a deaf person from the waiting list
- Matching is a thorough process to ensure that the characteristics and breed of the dog complement the lifestyle and needs of the deaf recipient. For example someone with an active lifestyle would be matched with a dog that liked a lot of exercise.
- Once a dog and person have been paired, the recipient is invited to stay at either The Grange or The Beatrice Wright Centre, so that the bond can start to develop between the hearing dog and owner.
- The Charity has members of staff around the UK who will visit the new partnership in their home, to ensure that the dog and person are happy in the new environment.
- They continue to support for the lifetime of the partnership, with regular home visits and advice
The Benefits of a Hearing Dog
- It is not just the practical soundwork assistance that hearing dog recipients value.
- A survey of hearing dog recipients highlighted the emotional support they receive from their hearing dog
- You can see that before getting their dog, a high proportion said they were stressed, lonely, felt vulnerable and even depressed.
- Whereas, after getting their hearing dog, recipients felt more secure, confident and more approachable and found it easier to make friends.