Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a British charitable organisation founded in 1982. The Charity's patron is HRH The Princess Royal

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People (also known as Hearing Dogs for the Deaf or simply Hearing Dogs) is a United Kingdom-based charity formally established in 1982.

The Charity was created from an idea by veterinarian Bruce Fogle, who attended a symposium at Washington State University in 1979, at which the American Hearing Dog schemes were outlined. On his return to England Bruce contacted Lady Beatrice Wright of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf RNID. Lady Wright was aware of the American Hearing Dog schemes but felt there was no way that existing UK-based Deaf charities could finance starting such a project.


A pilot scheme was developed through funding from Pro-Dogs (an animal charity), Pedigree Petfoods, the Daily Mail, Pebble Mill at One (A UK Day-Time TV show) and Mutual of New York (an American insurance company involved in the funding of the American ear scheme). Tony Blunt was appointed the Charity's first administrator/trainer, and later became the Charity's Director-General until his retirement in 2004. Tony Blunt chose the first dog to be a Demonstration Dog, Favour, a one year old stray from the National Canine Defence League (now known as the Dogs Trust) Kennels.


The charity was launched in 1982 at the Crufts Dog Show under the auspices of the RNID. In 1983 work in training the first dogs started at the home of Gillian Lacey, the project's first placement counsellor. In that year the first Hearing Dog, Lady, was successfully placed.

The Dogs, Selection and Training

The dogs themselves vary from the largest, scruffiest mongrel to the smallest pedigree but they are all easily recognisable by their distinctive burgundy jacket and lead slips, which also helps to identify the recipient’s otherwise ‘invisible’ disability.

The majority of puppies and young dogs that are selected to start their training have come from rescue centres or are unwanted pets. Often puppies and young dogs are offered to Hearing Dogs from members of the public who are unable to keep their pet for various reasons or from breeders. 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.

When a puppy or young dog (Hearing Dogs will accept adult dogs up to the age of three) is taken on, he will spend the next few months living with a volunteer puppy socialiser during which time he will learn basic manners and obedience. The socialiser will take the dog everywhere, introducing him to all sorts of environments and experiences; getting him used to situations he may well encounter when he is a fully qualified hearing dog. Socialisers are usually based quite close to one of the Charity’s socialising training centres – Buckinghamshire, North Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire and Devon.

This socialisation period is followed by the advanced soundwork training which lasts for 16 weeks. It is during this time that the dog will be carefully matched to a deaf person on the waiting list, then the dog is trained specifically to the needs and sounds of his future owner. During the soundwork training the dogs will be trained to respond to everyday household sounds that hearing people take for granted: alarm clock, doorbell, telephone, cooker timer, baby cry, the call and, of course, the danger sounds such as the smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm and burglar alarm. Additionally, all of the dogs are trained to alert their deaf owners to the fire siren in public places such as hotels, restaurants, shops etc. as they are, by law, allowed to accompany their recipient into public premises. 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 the smoke alarm and fire alarm, the dogs will lie down to indicate danger.

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.

Assistance Dogs UK

In 1994 an umbrella organisation called Assistance Dogs UK was launched. Assistance Dogs UK agreed on a set standard of codes and ethics, which encouraged the Department of Health to support access to public places (including those which offer food for sale) for all registered assistance dogs.

Recipient Selection Criteria

In applying for a hearing dog, a deaf person is expressing a need. It is the responsibility of the Charity’s staff to assess that need and, if appropriate, train a dog to help them. Applicants must be 18 years of age or over, have a severe or profound hearing loss and need some form of assistance to make them aware of sounds such as the alarm clock, doorbell, telephone, baby cry, smoke alarm etc. Most importantly, they must be able to care for a dog properly and genuinely enjoy the close companionship of a dog. The waiting list for these special dogs currently stands at two years.

One in seven of the adult UK population having a significant hearing loss, and more than 650,000 of those falling into the category that could potentially benefit from a hearing dog.


Hearing Dogs receives no UK or International government funding, relying solely on the generosity of individuals and companies to keep it operational. Hearing dogs are free to deaf people as the training of each dog is financially supported by a company, organisation, club or individual willing to raise the funds needed. In fact, the public plays a big part in the entire hearing dog training process from selecting a puppy through to leaving a legacy in their will.

Volunteers and Fundraising

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a registered charity and therefore relies on its many volunteers to support its Staff.

There are many roles filled by volunteers that include but are not exclusive of: puppy walking and socialising; where volunteers take a trainee Hearing Dog into their home and to help familiarise it with everyday sights and sounds; and adopters (those who look after trainee Hearing Dogs in the evenings and at weekends and when dogs retire). There are also nationwide branches of fund-raisers and supporters, with volunteers taking part in events in order to raise money for the charity.

Site Locations

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People has Training Centres situated in locations in the UK. The first Training Centre was opened in 1986 at an old boarding kennels in Lewknor. Lewknor closed in 2002.

The Headquarters of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People are now located at the larger complex of the The Grange, in Saunderton, Buckinghamshire where the charity moved in 2002.

The Beatrice Wright Training Centre was opened in 1994 at Cliffe near Selby in Yorkshire. This Centre trains Hearing Dogs mainly for the north of England.

The charity is now in the process of creating a new Training Centre in Bielby, Yorkshire.

See also

External links and References

* [http://www.hearingdogs.org.uk/ Official Website for Hearing Dogs for The Deaf]
* [http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/showcharity.asp?regno=293358&submit=Run+Search Charity commission site Identifying Hearing Dogs for Deaf People]
* [http://www.intelligentgiving.com/charity/lite/2312 Intelligent Giving profile of Hearing Dogs for the Deaf]
* [http://www.support-dogs.org.uk/ADUK.htm Assistance Dogs UK information]

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