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Hearing Dogs

Frequently Asked Questions About Hearing Dogs

What does a hearing dog do?

A hearing dog is trained to alert an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing to various sounds such a telephone ring, door bell, alarm clock, kitchen timer, teakettle whistle, and baby cry.  Hearing dogs give their human partners a greater feeling of safety and security, and they provide wonderful companionship.

How do I qualify for a hearing dog?

You must have a hearing loss.  Some training programs will require you to have a certain level such as 65 dB or more in an unaided ear. Most programs will require that you be 18 years of age or older because of the responsibility involved. You will need to demonstrate that you are physically and financially able to care for the dog.  Some programs will also require that you have no other dog in the house (other dogs can interfere with the hearing dog’s work), some have requirements for a fenced yard, and some prefer that you live alone or with another person who has a hearing loss.

Where can I get a hearing dog?

NVRC publishes a fact sheet about hearing dog training programs that serve Virginia, Maryland and DC residents.  Click here for a PDF copy.

How much does a hearing dog cost?

A few programs will charge the full cost of training a dog for you, which can be $20,000 or more, but most training programs are operated by nonprofit organizations which use donations to defray their expenses.  You will usually be asked to pay an application fee.  Some programs will work with you to raise money in your community to pay the cost of getting a trained hearing dog.

What breeds make the best hearing dogs?

Just about any breed of dog can be used as a hearing dog, and there are also many hearing dogs that are mixed breeds.  The breed is not so important as the dog’s health and temperament.  A good hearing dog has a strong work ethic, is naturally drawn to sound, is quick to respond to sound and commands, and has a high energy level.  Since the dog will have the right to public access, it will need to be calm in crowds and able to handle stress and noise when it is put in new situations.  Many hearing dog programs use dogs rescued from shelters.

How long does it take to get a hearing dog?

Training a hearing dog in basic obedience, public behavior, and sound work can take from 6 months to 1 year. Most programs do not start formal training until the dog is at least 6 months old. Most of the best training programs have a waiting list of one year or more from the time you start the application process.  Most dogs are 18 months to 3 years of age when they are placed with a human partner.

What about training my own dog?

Few training programs will train your pet dog for hearing dog work. One that does is Canine Helpers for the Handicapped in Lockport, NY:  It is also difficult to find an experienced local trainer who understands both hearing dog training and how to work effectively with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing.

What resources do you recommend?

For a very thorough book on hearing dogs, check out “Lend Me an Ear” by Martha Hoffman  The book is also available through the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners –

How do I know if a hearing dog is right for me?

The questions below will help you evaluate if you are ready for the changes and responsibilities a hearing dog will bring to your life:

  • Will you like having a dog that is always near you so it can alert you quickly?
  • Will you have trustworthy friends or family living in a place that is safe for your dog with whom you can leave your dog if needed?
  • Will you be able to deal with shedding, fleas, and cleaning up after your dog?
  • How will the other people in your household feel about your dog not being the same as a pet, and being restricted from playing with it or distracting it from its work?
  • Will you have difficulty changing the habits of other people who are used to alerting you to sounds?
  • If you already have a dog, will this dog allow your hearing dog to work without interfering, or will you have to give it up?
  • Are you prepared for the time the dog will need to adjust to your home, work, and other environments before it can perform effectively?
  • Will you be able to adjust your daily routine for things like feeding, toileting, and exercise, since the dog’s basic needs must come first?
  • Is there space near your home and work area to toilet and exercise your dog easily?
  • Will you have the time and enthusiasm to keep training the dog, knowing that training and practice must continue throughout your years with the dog?
  • Will you be able to pay for the dog’s food, vet bills, medication, and things like grooming?
  • Will you be able to handle frequent questions in public from people curious about your dog, and sometimes challenges to your right to public access?

Other Hearing Dog Topics


Our Former Executive Director,
Cheryl Heppner and her hearing dog, Galaxy, were given an award by CCI in November, 2010.
Click on the link below to read Cheryl's speech.
Changing My Life: My Partnership with Galaxy     by Cheryl Heppner
Galaxy proudly displaying an award for her service