For the past week I have been completing a week of work experience at the Hearing Dogs in Saunderton. It was an absolutely amazing placement and I was lucky to get so much hands on handling experience throughout my week which has really boosted my confidence with dog handling.
The Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a charity funded by donations as it receives no government funding. It is situated in Saunderton on the site of a previous farm, where buildings have been renovated for their purpose. The grange has many offices and two main kennel blocks with lots of fields and open space in order to walk and exercise the dogs.
During my week I spent most of my time with the dog welfare team. The dogs in training spend they’re day, mostly 9-5, in the kennels and the welfare team are responsible for looking after them. They then go home at the end of the day to a B&Ber where they are then brought back the next day. This B&Ber voluntary service is extremely popular because the dog can be cared for during the day whilst people are at work etc and holiday cover can be provided for by other volunteers.
My day usually consisted of fixing bedding and topping up waters, taking dogs for lead walks or into the fields where they can be ran without a lead, playing with them in the compound, helping with grooming and general cleaning and tidying. The welfare team are not only trying to get the dogs active, but also used to people and social situations, therefore the importance of lots of human interaction and playing with them is in fact extremely important.
I spent one morning with two of the trainers with some of their different dogs. Each trainer has on average four dogs, and also access to a shared training flat with a bathroom, living room, bathroom and sometimes dining room. Their aim is to train them in an environment that is as similar to the environment it will be working in.
Training the dogs consists of them responding to many sounds in the household. They will then alert the deaf person by a nose touch or sitting down with their front paws up on the deaf persons legs. The deaf person will then ask what it is and the dog will lead them back to the sound. This is the case for most of the sounds such as the telephone, a cooker timer, doorbell, alarm clock (where they will wake up the person by jumping up or a duvet tug). In the case of fetching the deaf person as asked by another person they can also lead the deaf person back to them which is helpful for simple daily tasks like calling someone for dinner.
The danger sounds including a smoke and fire alarm, and the shop alarms as well, will alert the dog to then lie down when the deaf person asks where is it. This is to avoid the deaf person being lead back to the danger, and allows them to make the decision on what to do.
Seeing this training, which takes 18 weeks, in action and different dogs at different stages was fascinating and great to see the dog I had been walking daily and exercising doing its job so well.
The dogs provided by the hearing dogs charity are usually cocker spaniels, cockerpoos, poodles and Labradors. They provide companionship and security to many deaf people, allowing them to get on with daily life and feel that they are safe as they know they can no longer ignore a sound!
It was a very rewarding and great week of work experience and I have learnt a great deal. Seeing how important dogs can be in someone’s life is amazing and what the charity is doing is incredible.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog as much as I have writing it. If you live near the Hearing Dogs they do have Thursday Tours which are very informative and great fun which you should get along to!
New blogs coming soon so keep your eyes peeled!