I’m going to start this blog off with a personal story. A few years ago, I was living in an apartment building by myself with my service dog. At 3am she woke me up in a panic. I woke up and tried to settle her down but she was insistent something was wrong. I noticed a faint beeping sound but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. I wandered around my apartment putting my ear up to things trying to figure it out and it seemed like it was coming from the toilet. At 3am this didn’t make much sense but my dog wasn’t calming down now that I was up. She was now pacing and whining and kept going back to the door. I grabbed a leash thinking maybe she needed to go outside and when I opened the door the beeping suddenly got louder. As I went into the stairwell it got even louder and I could now identify that it sounded like some sort of alarm. It seemed very odd that the alarm was still going off after a long period of time, so I continued my search for the sound and started to head down the stairs realizing as I did so that the sound was getting quieter. I turned back and proceeded up the stairs instead and the sound grew louder. When I opened the door to the floor above my apartment the whole hall was filled with smoke. For some reason, the smoke detectors in hall had not picked up the smoke and so instead of the fire alarms in the whole building going off it was a single smoke alarm in an apartment a floor above mine and halfway down the building that my dog was trying to alert to and get me away from. Of course being the groggy human that I was at 3am I had walked her towards the danger! So lesson learned, silly human, if your dog alerts, follow them away from the sound. My point with this story though is that without the assistance of my dog I would not have known anything was wrong. I either wouldn’t have heard the alarm at all or I would have done a brief search thinking, that’s weird its coming from the toilet and gone back to sleep. (And just incase you were wondering, everything turned out fine with the fire.)
This story is one of many situations in which hearing alert dogs can assist people with hearing problems. However, before we go into specific information about tasks that hearing alert dogs perform we will discuss a little about service dogs in general.
What is a Service Dog?
A service dog is a dog that is trained to perform certain tasks to assist an individual with a disability in a public setting.
Is that different from a Therapy Dog or an Emotional Support Animal?
Yes. Therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort to people other than their handler. For example, Therapy dogs often provide comfort to children in hospital, patients in nursing homes, students during exam times, etc.
Emotional Support Animals are trained to assist their handler in their own home environment but not outside of the home or in a public space.
How long does it take to train a Service Dog?
It usually take at least 1-2 years and during this time the dog is exposed to a variety of unfamiliar situations and works on basic obedience before training to help the handler with specific tasks.
What kind of tasks does a Hearing Alert Dog perform?
- Alerting to someone calling the handler’s name
- Alerting to someone knocking at the door or a doorbell
- Alerts to fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, etc.
- Alerting to baby/child crying or calling for help
- Alerting to someone approaching from behind
- Alerting to timers or beeping on microwave, dryer, etc
- Other tasks specific to the needs of the handler in a certain environment
Where can I find out more about Service dogs and their training?