In my blogs, I regularly write about technical aids that support better speech and hearing understanding.
Today I want to highlight a living tool that is hairy and has four legs: the signal dog.
Almost everyone is familiar with the guide dog, a dog “in progress” that warns its blind or partially sighted boss or female of obstacles.
However, there are also dogs that are specially trained for the deaf and hard of hearing, signal dogs. This was unknown to me until 10 years ago, until I started accompanying a client who was training a signal dog.
The dog signals sounds at home, but can also be taken by his owner to work, the shop, on a trip, to conferences and the theatre. Some examples of sounds that these dogs can signal are: the doorbell, telephone (including text messages or whatsapp), being called by someone, objects that the owner unnoticed drops.
Sometimes it is sufficient if a signal dog as a pet mainly signals sounds in the home environment. Then he doesn’t have to go withhis owner everywhere. Such a signal dog is called a ‘light dog’.
Of course, all signal dogs, like guide dogs for the blind, are trained by special training. Puppies are selected for this training and when they are old enough they start their training in a playful way, until they are old enough for the more serious work.
When the signal dogs are at work, they wear a special jacket with a clearly visible logo, so that it is clear to everyone: this is a special dog. They may not be disturbed by others, for example by stroking them or appealing to them, because then they lose their concentration of work. They have to watch out for their owner and be alert to their owner’s commands.
In their spare time they can be like all other dogs, play, laze and enjoy.
The intensive cooperation between the signal dog and its owner also creates a deep bond with each other. Therefore it is also important that, when someone starts with a signal dog, there is a good click between dog and owner. And in many cases, the signal dog also has a social function for his owner and can provide coziness at home. Both owner and dog are initially supervised by a trainer in teaching commands and in dealing with each other.
A signal dog has a very valuable contribution to the life of its hearing impaired owner, a value that is often wrongly underestimated.
For those who are considering a signal dog or just want to know more about signal dogs, information can be found for example under https://www.dogsforbetterlives.org/hearing-dogs/