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Hearing Dog

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Hearing dogs, called "signal dogs" in the past and also "sound alert dogs" or "hearing assist dogs," are a category of assistance dogs that are especially selected and trained to assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Hearing dogs allow their handlers to become aware of important sounds such as doorbells, smoke alarms, passing traffic, a ringing telephone, or an alarm clock. They also can work outside the home as 24/7 hearing dogs and alert to sounds such as sirens, fire alarms, fork lifts, people coming up behind someone quickly, name call, and other sounds.

Hearing dogs may be trained professionally in as little as three months; however most are trained for a year. They are trained to recognize, then physically alert or lead their handler to the source of the sound, paw the owner for some sounds, and for others paw or jump on them but not lead them to it (example fire alarm). They are tested for proper temperament, sound reactivity, and if they are willing to work. Then they are trained in basic obedience, exposed to things they will face in public such as escalators, shopping carts, different types of people, elevators and so on. After that they are trained in sound alert.

Some hearing dogs wear a blaze orange leash and collar to identify them.

In the United States, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 allows these dogs access to anywhere the general public is permitted to go; state laws also provide for access. There are fines and also criminal penalities for interfering with a hearing dog team or denying access to a hearing dog. The same penalities apply to a person trying to disguise a dog as a hearing dog illegally.

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