IHDI has trained more than 1,300 professionally certified Hearing Dogs since 1979 for persons with hearing loss. All of the dogs that are selected to be a part of the Hearing Dog Program come from local animal shelters and bordering states high kill shelters. The dogs are generally mixed breeds, six months to a year in age, in good health, and with aim-to-please energetic personalities.
Training Other "Ears" to Hear
We have partnerships with animal shelters that know what type of dog we are looking for. We get all of our dogs from shelters, as written in our bylaws. We are looking for dogs that have an aim to please attitude, loves people, and food motivated for easier training. Our trainers do behavior tests when meeting the dog such as playing with their paws and ears to make sure they are exactly what we are looking for. We do not discriminate on breed but do tend to have dogs under about 60 lbs because jumping on or nudging their owner is how they alert to their sounds.
Once selected, each dog receives a thorough medical examination to ensure a long healthy life. This includes blood work, vaccinations, and spay or neuter if necessary. If they have any treatable medical issues, we treat them right away and once they are confirmed healthy, they are promoted to start training. During daily training sessions, the dogs learn to respond to 3 basic sounds:
- Doorbell or knock
- Emergency alarms
Once they get their basic sounds down and socialization training, they are then matched with the recipient, based on their needs and preferences.The dogs can then be custom trained to other sounds the individual needs such as a baby cry, apartment buzzer, alarm clock, etc.
General obedience and socialization round out each dog’s six to eight months of custom training.
Hearing Dogs Are Welcomed Home
Once our hearing dog is deemed ready, one of our professional trainers will travel and place the Hearing Dog in its new home, again at NO COST TO THE RECIPIENT. In home training typically takes between 3-5 days to ensure a good working relationship, proper care, and to continue training. Training can be continued by the recipient to help with other smaller noises like a microwave or oven timer and continues to learn once the dog becomes a part of the recipient's lifestyle.
After placement and successful completion of a 90-day trial period, the dog is certified as a Hearing Dog and receives an orange service dog vest, collar, leash, and official ID card. Hearing Dogs have legal access to all public places while accompanied by their owner.