Service Dogs for the Deaf

A service dog that assists deaf people is also known as a ‘hearing dog.’ These dogs play a significant role in the lives of many deaf people. They enable members of the deaf community to have more freedom and feel secure as they travel to various places. In addition, the freedom offered to a person by a hearing dog allows him or her to stay connected with deaf culture by meeting others with the same experiences. The following looks at the role of these dogs within the lives of deaf individuals as well as the particular qualities that make for an effective service dog.

In order to be as independent as possible, a person with deafness needs to be aware of what is going on in the environment around him or her. Years of deaf education teach deaf people about the various types of communication, but many still need help in becoming independent. The role of a service or hearing dog is to make its deaf owner aware of various sounds. For instance, a trained hearing dog would make its owner aware of a smoke alarm going off in the house. It would get the deaf person’s attention by tapping him or her with its paw or nuzzling the individual’s hand. Hearing dogs can also make deaf people aware of the ring of an alarm clock, a door bell, or even a baby’s cries. In essence, a hearing dog acts as the ears of a person with deafness. In addition, to helping people in the deaf community to navigate their way through busy streets or even their own neighborhood, hearing dogs can give a person with deafness the extra boost of confidence he or she needs to travel to unfamiliar places. In decades past, it was an unusual sight to see someone walking with a service dog, but now the practice has become a part of deaf culture. Deaf education teaches that with the help of a service dog an individual can delve into pursuits that he or she may not have considered before. Not surprisingly, many people in the deaf community see their hearing dogs as more than just a source of practical help. In deaf culture, they are seen as close, loyal companions or even friends.

What types of qualities are found in a service dog that assists people in the deaf community? This is a common question asked of many organizations that train service dogs for deaf people. There are a few qualities that make a dog a likely candidate to become a hearing dog. An effective hearing dog is alert, possesses a reasonable amount of energy, and has the ability to focus on its owner. A hearing dog must have a temperament that allows it to remain calm in an unfamiliar or bustling atmosphere. Another important quality for a successful hearing dog is the ability to get along with other dogs and cats that are in the vicinity. A qualified hearing dog trainer can bring out these positive qualities in a dog. Of course, if a trainer sees that a particular dog’s temperament is not suited to the work of a hearing dog, then he or she will not attempt to continue the program of training.

Finally, a service or hearing dog certainly doesn’t have to be a purebred to be useful to a deaf person in his or her daily life. A stray dog living in the local dog shelter may be an ideal candidate to become a hearing dog. In addition, to finding trainable dogs, a deaf person must learn how to interact with his or her hearing dog. In short, learning to work with a service dog is part of the deaf education of many in the deaf community. Once a person with deafness and a hearing dog get accustomed to one another, the deaf individual will often find that new doors of opportunity begin to open up.

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