Hearing Guide Dogs

Just as dogs can be trained to help the blind they can also be trained to assist the deaf. Special training teaches the dogs to alert it’s owner to alarms of all types, ringing telephones, intruder alarms and so on. They are also trained to respond to calls of distress from children, the cries of a baby.

My guide dog Sissi was originally trained as a Hearing Dog but has also been trained to help with my eyesight as well. It is not always possibly to retrospectively train a dog this way but in Sissi I have been very lucky to have a dog that could be and she is utterly indispensable to me, without her I simply would not venture out alone, so in a very real way she gives me freedom and independence.

Dogs for the hearing impaired vary from the largest hound to the scruffiest mongrel and even small pedigree but they are all easily recognisable by their distinctive  jacket and lead slips, which also helps to identify the recipient’s otherwise ‘invisible’ disability. The colour of the uniform jackets vary from country to country but please take a small amout of trouble to become familiar with your.

The majority of puppies and young dogs that are selected to start their training have come from rescue centres, tohers are unwanted pets.  As hearing dogs can be almost any breed, crossbreed or mongrel this means the net for suitable recruits can be cast as wide as possible. Dogs required for people with mixed impairments like myself with hearing and sight problems need more rigorous selection. When a puppy or young dog is taken on, he spends the next few months living with a volunteer puppy socialiser, during which time he, learns basic manners and obedience. The socialiser takes the dog everywhere, introducing him to many environments and experiences to get him used to situations he might encounter as a qualified hearing dog. Publ;ic transport training is one of the most important areas of training that is required.

This socialisation period is followed by the advanced soundwork training, which lasts for 16 weeks. It is during this time the dog are carefully matched to a deaf person on the waiting list.  Then the dog is trained specifically to the needs, sounds and social environment of the future owner. During the soundwork training the dogs are trained to respond to everyday household sounds that hearing people take for granted: alarm clock, doorbell, telephone, cooker timer, baby cry, children playing, the call and, of course, the danger sounds such as the smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm, and intruder alarm. Additionally, dogs are trained to alert their deaf owners to a fire siren in public places such as hotels, restaurants, shops. Hearing dogs are trained to alert deaf recipients by touching with a paw and then leading the person back to the sound source. For sounds such as smoke alarms and fire alarms, the dogs lie down to indicate danger. My Sissi never allows me to ignore such alerts becoming increasingly frantic if I delay.



At the end of the training, after the recipient has spent a week at one of the training centres learning to bond with their new hearing dog, the partnership goes home together and begins a new life. However, the Charity’s involvement with both the dog and recipient does not end there. Each and every hearing dog partnership is visited regularly by a member of staff to ensure that the dog is working to the standard expected and the relationship is as good as it can be.

Do NOT Disturb a Working Dog Please

When you are out and you see a person with an Assistance Dog (for blindness, hearing impairment, disability, epilepsy etc) PLEASE do not distract the dog because the results of you doing so can be unfortunate for the person they assist. This rather good video from KNGF (The Dutch Guide Dog body) is amusing but is also a good illustration.

My Own Experience

Sissi - my hearing & seeing eye dog

Sissi - my hearing & seeing eye dog

A few weeks ago I was walking into town to do the day’s chores. It was still early in the day as I pushed the buggy with Mariaske and Joost on board, my guide dog Sissi was with me of course. Sissi protects my right side as I am now blind in my lower right quarter. We were about to swing onto Minckelersstraat from the alley behind De Bijenkorf when Sissi was distracted by two young men, tourists. As a result I walked slap into a metal bollard in the pavement, it was the exact height of my crotch. The blow was painful enough to knock the sense out of me for a few moments and I had to use the nearest wall for support. Sissi was very distressed at me coming to harm so I tried to reassure her while my eyes watered and I fought the pains radiating out from my pubis. After a few minutes I tried to continue but the pain was such that I feared I had perhaps damaged myself or one of the metal plates in my pelvis. It took me thirty minutes to make it to Tyjardia & Nonke;s house. Ty is also my doctor, it’s a walk that would normally take five minutes. Ty examined me carefully and concluded there was no damage to bones or plates, but the bruises were already very clearly visible on and around the upper part of my vulva. By that evening when Nina got home and took a look my vulva was black and blue. So please, never distract a guide dog at work, what they do is important and disturbing them at work can cause those of us who rely on our four legged friends injury.

I can see the funny side of what happened to me even though at the time it hurt, but the results of such distract could have been fatal if I had been near a busy road.

Below is another bit of amusement that had my children rolling around laughing………..

It is of a young blind man being interviewed by a TV crew, as it turns out the TV crew should have been paying attention to the guide dog as well !



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