Signal dogs or hearing dogs are the dogs that are being trained to support deaf people or are meant for the people who are hard of hearing. They can help deaf people to lead a safe and well operated life through the skills that they have learned through proper training.
A little about signal dogs
Signal dogs belong to the group of service dogs who get a complete set of skills through a step-by-step training program and are taught to behave in a way that is helpful for deaf people. They are trained while keeping in view all the liabilities of a deaf person or one who is hard of hearing.
Most of the dogs that are used as signal dogs are specifically bred to carry out certain tasks and are gradually trained for months. But as a matter of fact, these dogs have to be trained and learn skills to respond to the signals coming from the surroundings, a dog bred in a common life setting can also be trained as a signal dog.
The best breeds that are considered to be perfect to become signal dogs or hearing dogs include cockers, terriers, poodles, Tzus, and Chihuahuas. (As described by Assistance Dogs International). These dogs can be of any type or size, either carefully bred under controlled circumstances or taken from a common environment.
The main purpose of these dogs is to help deaf beware of the surrounding environment and the sound signals coming from various sources. These could be alarms, telephone calls, a kettle whistles, a door bell, a fire alarm, or door knock, or even the voice of a nearby person who is calling the person to talk or telling an important thing.
These hearing dogs are trained to be responsive to all important sounds and are taught to respond quickly and effectively through pulling or barking in order to tell the owner about the signals that are received. In addition to this, the deaf person has to understand the behavior of the dog so that he or she knows what the dog is trying to tell them about.
Must-have characteristics of a hearing or signal dogs for the deaf
The dogs that are trained to help deaf people must have the following characteristics:
- Responsive and alert
- Active and quick in their action
- Understands the personal characteristics of the owner
- Can understand what signals are important and how to inform the owner
- Can avoid extraneous noises, to keep itself and the owner stress-free from any irrelevant signals.
What a signal dog should not do?
A signal dog should not exhibit the following characteristics:
- Being too responsive to all of the noise, signals, and voices, and not being specific to the relevant signals that are important to the owner.
- Being overly protective in their behavior; instead, should be skilled to behave in a facilitative way without harming others.
Different ways a signal dog can help a deaf person
Danger alert alarms
The most important way the signal dogs can help the deaf is through informing their owners of danger alerts, like fire alarms or smoke signals, or burglar alarm in the house, etc. This can help the person stay away from danger and keep them safe.
Signals coming from household appliances
These dogs also help in responding to the signals and sounds coming from the appliances like the washing machine, kettle whistles, or even hearing a phone ringing. This helps the person to respond to these situations properly, which otherwise may not be possible. Such help can allow a deaf person to perform daily tasks without getting help from any other family member and be able to lead an independent life.
Communicating to others
They can help in communicating to others. As these dogs are trained to inform their owner when they are being called by another person, as they know their name, and whenever someones has to talk to him the dog will inform the owner by pulling him towards the one who is trying to communicate with him.
Traffic sounds and appropriate responses
They also serve the best when deaf people are on the road. They can help them know when a car is coming towards them and when they need to stop or walk without getting into accidents. Though they are not familiar with specific horns, they can react properly when they hear an approaching vehicle to keep their owner away from it.
Any new signal coming from their surroundings
They are also able to recognize an unusual sound or signal coming to them or any changed signals coming in, from their surroundings. They have the ability to take the owner out of the unusual situation, though may not be able to respond to panic or an accidental situation that occur in the surroundings. While they may recognize abrupt sounds like a gun fire.
All these helpful skills, which you can expect to see in the well-trained signal dogs for deaf, are crucial and are very important for those who are hard of hearing or have impaired hearing ability. They can help respond or behave properly according to the signals coming through. These dogs are well trained to hear, and take action and guide the owner to respond properly according to a given signal, like if the tea is ready they can put off the kettle from the stove, if the fire alarm is buzzing the signal dogs will drag the owner to the outdoors, etc.
All these actions can make a deaf person live a safe, independent, and worry-free life, even if he is unable to hear what is happening around him. A signal dog or a hearing dog can be of great help to the deaf people who want a 24-hour companion to keep them aware of all the signals and sounds that are important and need proper action to be taken by the person.