Alsatians, Dobermans, Rottweiler and other large powerful breeds have been employed to guard private property. Other breeds have also been used by the police, military and customs to track illegal drugs and explosives as well as rescue trapped or injured people (Swabe).
Similarly, canines have been increasingly used to assist disabled humans. With this, they are called "guide dogs." This paper focuses on "hearing dogs" or guide dogs that aid the deaf. It provides an overview as to how these special canines are trained in order to help their hearing-impaired masters. Furthermore, this paper cites some amazing true-to-life encounters of dog-owners and their hearing dogs.
Hearing dogs are specially trained to call the attention of their hearing-impaired owners to various sounds which they recognize. They are taught to identify two types of sounds, these are danger sounds and alerting sounds ("Border Telegraph Newsroom"). Danger sounds include fire alarms and sirens. When the smoke alarm sounds, the hearing dog is trained to take his/her owner to safety. Since the deaf may not be able to hear the siren of an emergency vehicle while he/she is driving, it is critical for the hearing dog to let the owner know when one is approaching. ("Florida Dog Guides")
On the other hand, alerting sounds include everyday noises such as ringing telephone or doorbell, someone knocking on the door or calling the owner's name and alarm clock going off. Furthermore, hearing dogs are trained to alert their owners that a stranger is coming up behind them. In addition, the hearing dog will pick up any small objects like car keys the owner has dropped without noticing ("Florida Dog Guides"). If there is a baby in the house, hearing dogs are also trained to alert their owners if the baby is crying.
These are just some of the sounds the hearing dogs are trained to recognize. Apart from these, they also alert their owners for other environmental sounds that are necessary for safety and independence (Stamper).
Some dog owners take their hearing dogs everywhere with them. The hearing dogs may accompany them to their workplace, public transportation and other public places like restaurants and grocery stores. However, other owners prefer using their dogs only at home. (Stamper)
Selecting and Training
There are various institutions founded with the specific purpose of training hearing dogs. Some of these notable organizations include Dogs for the Deaf, Florida Dog Guides, Fidos for Freedom and International Hearing Dogs among others. According to these seasoned hearing dog trainers, majority of the canines that undergo the rigid training for helping the deaf are rescued from animal shelters, where they may have been euthanized should the dog pound fail to find homes for them. For these organizations, this method has proven to be strategic since the population of unwanted dogs is substantially reduced and the rescued dogs are placed in loving homes and tended by caring owners. ("Dogs for the Deaf")
A number of dogs, on the other hand, are family dogs sent by their hearing-impaired owners for training ("Florida Dog Guides").
To qualify for the training program, trainers screen dogs based on friendliness, energy, health and intelligence. Most trainers look for curious, friendly and eager dogs (Ingold). For Florida Dog Guide