Training my Dog to be a Hearing Dog

I went deaf about two years ago and have a dog, Zoe, who is now 5 years old. I think it would be great to have a “hearing dog,” but I know that Zoe would not accept another dog in the house. Can you teach an old dog new tricks?  For the last two years, I have searched for trainers who would teach Zoe to alert me to the fire alarm.  Finally, I found someone [Diogo Rodrigues at Advanced K-9 Training in Loxahatchee, Florida] to help me.

The training involves rewarding Zoe for pawing at me or the trainer when she hears the sounds of the alarm.  Zoe loves learning because she gets chicken! This progresses from Zoe’s sitting by the trainer’s side to her being on the other side of the room and responding to the alarm.  The trainer challenges Zoe more and more each session.

Rodrigues says that he custom trains dogs to assist clients who are deaf or hard of hearing by physically alerting their partner to specific sounds such as a smoke alarm, doorbell, alarm clock, telephone ring or child’s cry. A Hearing Dog nudges or paws its partner alerting them to a sound and then leads them to its source. Hearing Dogs can also be taught to respond to hand signals.

Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Rodrigues says that yes, it is easier to get a dog that has been trained since it was a puppy.  But my dog knows me and loves me, and she is trainable. “We can teach an old dog new tricks.  We train all sizes, breeds, and ages.”

Can you train my dog to be a service animal? 

The training will qualify your dog as a service animal, says Rodrigues. Rodrigues says that by law, you do not have to go through a company to train your dog to become a service animal.  As long as you have a disability and the dog is well-trained and well-behaved in public, you don’t need to go through a company.  Rodrigues recommends finding a qualified trainer and being thorough with the training.  Also, it is good to have a certificate to present at places that will ask.

How long does training take?

When it comes to training a service dog it can take several months of training and multiple times a week to have a fully trained service dog, it will all depend on the dog’s drive to work, every dog is different, but just like any other service we offer we like to take our time and do it right to assure our clients that they are getting a dog that will perform at 100% at all times.

How do I get a dog that was training as a puppy?

See our blog for more information on organizations for hearing dogs: