Author: Suse Coon

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Monday, March 17th, 2014 at 4:28 pm
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Volunteers for Puppy Socialising Wanted!

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, the charity that trains dogs to support deaf people, has announced that it will be closing its charity shop on Musselburgh High Street on 31st March.  After five years of trading, the charity says the shop is no longer a sustainable source of fundraising income.

However, Hearing Dogs has received such tremendous support from the local community over the years, that the charity has decided to launch a brand new puppy socialising area between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Relying solely on the support of the public, Hearing Dogs is now seeking volunteers to join its puppy programme.

 

Michele Jennings, Chief Executive of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People says, “Since its opening in 2009, the shop in Musselburgh has been a wonderful part of the Charity and it is with regret that we are closing the store in March. I would like to extend a huge thank you to all of our kind hearted volunteers who have dedicated their time to support the shop and the Charity over the years.

“Hearing Dogs for Deaf People will be launching a brand new puppy socialising scheme in Scotland later this year and we are looking for enthusiastic volunteers from both Glasgow and Edinburgh. Puppy socialising volunteers play a vital role in the journey of a hearing dog, and do so in the knowledge that one day these pups will grow up to change the life of a deaf person.”

In 2002, West Lothian Life published the story of Billy Falconer from Armadale, whose hearing dog Dougal changed his life. Dougal himself had had an unhappy start in life, ending up in an RSPCA rescue centre while just a puppy. His exceptional hearing skills were spotted by a handler and Dougal ended up with a new career and a new home.

The first step is the socialisation process. In those days, 80% of hearing dogs like Dougal came from rescue centres and little or nothing is known about their backgrounds, so they are taken home by a socialiser to ensure that they are happy in a home environment and are house trained.

Nowadays, a spokesman told us, “the majority of hearing dogs  come from our own Kennel Club accredited breeding scheme. Breeding our own dogs has allowed us to produce dogs of a consistently outstanding temperament and health and therefore meet the high standards required to be a hearing dog.”

Assuming all goes well, the Training Centre then takes them on for a rigorous four month training period. Hearing dogs are trained to alert to important sounds such as the mobile phone, fire and smoke alarm and cooker timer. Dogs have to pass four tests: obedience, sociability, handling and sound work and when these have been completed with passes of 75%, the dog is then matched with its new owner. A house check is undertaken to make sure that the house is suitable and a sketch of the house is made so that the dog can be trained in a specially created similar layout with the same sounds as are in the new owner’s home. After all, not everyone has the same doorbell, or ringtone.

During the final week, owner and dog meet at the training centre and then the dog goes to its new home, although still with support from the organisation.

Dougal has retired now and I’m delighted to say, is still enjoying life with Billy as a companion dog. Billy now has a successor dog called Rico, a black Cocker Spaniel.

To enable more people like Billy to find companionship, confidence and independence, would you consider becoming a volunteer socialiser? You will look after a puppy in your home for a year, teaching basic obedience skills and introducing the pup to new people, sights and sounds. Puppies are placed at eight weeks of age and will stay with a socialiser for twelve to sixteen months.

It takes four months and £12,400 to train a hearing dog at one of two centres in Buckinghamshire and Yorkshire, although the total cost, with ongoing support for up to 10 years, is more like £45,000.

Puppy socialising volunteers receive full support from the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People training team, as well as regular home visits. For more information please visit www.hearingdogs.org.uk/puppysocialising or email volunteer@hearingdogs.org.uk

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