Hearing Dogs Program

What is a Hearing Dog?

Hearing Dogs are specially trained to alert people who are deaf or hard of hearing to common household sounds such as door knocks, telephones, and smoke alarms.

Certified Hearing Dogs: A Certified Hearing Dog may accompany someone deaf or hard of hearing into public places such as grocery stores and restaurants. In public situations, a Hearing Dog is providing environmental awareness by naturally paying attention to surrounding sounds. Note: “Certification” is a label we use to mean a dog that is specially trained for public by one of our trainers. It is not a term used by the ADA.

Home Hearing Dogs: A Home Hearing Dog is trained to work sounds in the home only. Home Hearing Dogs do not have certification for public places. They are ideal for someone that does not have the need for a dog to pay attention to sounds in public places such as work environments, restaurants or grocery stores. A child with a severe to profound hearing loss over the age of 12 may apply for a Home Hearing Dog.

How do we work?

Many of our young adult dogs are adopted from local animal shelters following an evaluation by an Instructor. Candidates are friendly, confident, and demonstrate an interest in toys and treats. They are checked for good health, spayed or neutered, and given necessary vaccinations.

Over a 6-8 month, period, dogs in training are socialized in public places, learn basic obedience commands, and are taught to respond to specific household sounds. Once they near graduation, they are thoughtfully matched with applicants who have been accepted to our wait list. Matches are made by the training staff and are not considered based on wait time but on suitability.

We offer a unique and personalized training experience for both our dogs and our clients. Our Instructors guide new recipients of Hearing Dogs through a 3 to 5-day orientation in their own home. Our recipients are taught how to care for and maintain the training the dogs have received.

Follow up support after placement of Hearing Dogs is ongoing and always available to all working teams.

Our program is small and graduates only a few Hearing Dogs each year. Applicants accepted to our wait list are also encouraged to consider placing applications with additional programs to improve their chances for being matched with Hearing Dogs sooner.

Applicants for Hearing Dogs need to be a resident of California and meet certain requirements.
See "Who is eligible?".

Is a Hearing Dog the Right Choice?

Hearing Dogs require your time. A Hearing Dog needs daily care and exercise that includes a regular routine. A Hearing Dog needs to practice his skills everyday. A Hearing Dog will make mistakes that need your help. A Hearing Dog needs to be praised and rewarded often.

Hearing Dogs require your patience. A Hearing Dog makes mistakes that can be frustrating. A Hearing Dog needs time to adjust to a new home and a new owner. A Hearing Dog will make mistakes with his job and that means taking time to stop what you are doing and immediately practice with him. A new Hearing Dog is young and active and might need help learning not to dig, jump, bark, or get in the garbage.

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What can a Hearing Dog do for you in a public place?

A Hearing Dog is not "formally" trained to respond to sounds in public the same way they do in the home. In public settings, a Hearing Dog will be paying attention to things happening around him. Eventually, you will start to understand your dogs behavior, therefore his natural reactions to sounds in public will bring you more awareness of your environment. You will notice that you look in the direction of sounds that your dog turns to look at.

Dogs need regular socialization and obedience practice in public. It is not enough to only take a Hearing Dog out when you travel. You will need to take your dog into public places at least 3 times a week in order to maintain your dog’s professional "manners". If you do not wish to take your dog into public places, we may be able to place a Hearing Dog with you that we do not qualify as "Certified for Public Access". These dogs work sounds only in the home and we label them "Home Hearing Dogs".

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Who is eligible?

Residents of California with at least a severe to profound hearing loss in both ears (un-aided) and wanting the companionship from a dog are invited to place an application. In some situations we can place a Hearing Dog with another retired Hearing Dog living in the home, but this is considered on a case by case basis only.

Our wait list varies from 6 months to 2 years; therefore, we ask that you carefully consider whether you can wait for a dog and if you are comfortable being matched to a dog by the training staff.

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What are the requirements for adopting a Hearing Dog?

- At least a severe hearing loss.
- Love of dogs.
- Time and ability to work with a young dog.
- No other pet dogs living in the home.
- Patience to work through problems.
- Finances to properly take care of a dog.
- 21 years old for a Public Certified Hearing Dog.
- 12 years or older for a Home Hearing Dog.

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What can a Hearing Dog do for you in your home?

A Hearing Dog responds to household sounds that will be practiced daily. They cannot respond to running water, a pot of boiling water, sirens, burglars, or dangers for children. We can train your Hearing Dog to recognize and respond to the following repetitive household sounds: oven timer, telephone, your name being called, door knock, smoke alarm, alarm clock, and sometimes a baby cry.

Some dogs will alert you to other sounds once they are in the home such as the dryer buzzer and microwave. It takes time and effort on your part to have a reliable working dog. Dogs need consistency, practice and praise in order to be dependable.

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To receive a Hearing Dog that we Certify for Public Access

- You must be at least 21 years old.
- You must be physically and mentally able to keep a dog professional and well mannered in public.

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What does a Hearing Dog cost?

The Sam Simon Foundation Assistance Dogs Program is supported and funded by The Sam Simon Foundation Giving Fund. If you are selected to receive a Hearing Dog there is no charge.

Your cost is keeping your dog happy, healthy, and safe. This means that you will need to be financially able to provide your dog with vet care, food, toys, bedding, and treats.

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Hearing Dog Application

To apply for a Hearing Dog, you will need to fill out an application and send it back to us along with an audiogram from an audiologist. After your application has been reviewed, you will be notified as to whether or not you qualify for the next step. That next step will be an in-home interview by one of our Instructors.

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