National charity, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, is actively seeking volunteers in Edinburgh to help train puppies to become fully-fledged hearing dogs.
As part of its â€˜New Year, New Youâ€™ campaign, the charity is searching for dog lovers interested in helping to socialise a Hearing Dog VIP (very important puppy!) for just over a year â€“ throughout its early training on the way to becoming a fully qualified hearing dog.
One in six people in the UK suffer with some form of hearing loss and the effects can be devastating. The lack of independence, loss of confidence, reduced self-esteem and feelings of anxiety often lead to loneliness, isolation and often depression.
However, fully qualified hearing dogs provide life-changing independence and confidence for recipients, as well as being trained to alert deaf people to important sounds and danger signals such as the doorbell, telephone and smoke alarm.
In Scotland, there are currently 69 people with hearing impairments who have had dogs placed with them, and there are another 24 volunteers socialising puppies.
Victoria Leedham, Volunteering Manager at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, says: â€œ Being a puppy socialiser is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying experience; these very special volunteers are fundamental to what we do. Quite simply – Hearing Dogs would not exist without them. Itâ€™s also a fantastic opportunity to learn or improve your dog-training skills – and meet lots of new friends along the way!â€
Diana Harkiss, local Hearing Dog Volunteer for two years, who is currently a Volunteer dog trainer in Edinburgh, (pictured in the header with puppy, Umba) said: â€œI became a Volunteer with Hearing Dogs because I love dogs and was intrigued by the prospect of training a puppy. Being a Volunteer, you really feel part of the Hearing Dogs family; I have made tons of new friends. I would recommend anyone considering becoming a Volunteer to do so. The charity gives you excellent support and training so you will learn lots as well as your puppy. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do.â€œ
Puppies are placed with their volunteer socialisers – who arenâ€™t required to have any previous experience â€“Â at around eight weeks of age. Volunteers then work with their puppy, at home and at training classes run by Hearing Dogs, for approximately 14 months, before they return to the charity for further, specialist training.
Volunteers should be over 18 years of age, have enough time to care for and socialise a puppy on a daily basis, own a car and have access to a secure garden. Puppy socialising volunteers receive full support from Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, as well as regular home visits and puppy training and obedience classes.