Each issue, a different professional shares their expert advice and gives information to help you support your child. This time Echo, a hearing dog, shares his doggy insights.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name’s Echo and I’m a yellow Labrador hearing dog. I’m seven years old and specially trained to look after a 13-year-old boy called Zach. Zach’s deaf so I let him know when important sounds go off, like his alarm clock in the morning. I’m also his best friend!
How did you become a hearing dog?
I was trained by Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. They train dogs like me to make things easier for deaf children and adults. The training was so much fun! I was taught that if I’m a good boy and make the right decisions, I get lots of treats and cuddles from humans. Learning how to let a person know when I heard certain sounds was my favourite part. I was taught to nudge someone with my nose when I heard a noise and then take the person to where the sound was coming from.
Who do you think a hearing dog is most suitable for?
We’re most suitable for people who want to know when a sound is happening and what type of sound it is, and for people who also want the love and friendship of a dog!
What does being a hearing dog for one family involve?
It involves lots of cuddles and playtime! One of the things we learn is how to go and fetch someone when we’re asked to. We call this ‘The Call’. Someone can ask me to go and get Zach and I will let him know that someone is calling for him, because he might not be able to hear them. We also tell people when we hear certain sounds like alarm clocks, smoke alarms and even sounds like a baby crying.
Do hearing dogs have similar rights to guide dogs?
Yes! One of the most fun parts of being a hearing dog is going everywhere with our humans. We’re allowed in places like shops, banks and even hospitals.
What’s the best part and the most challenging part of your job?
The best part is all the cuddles I get from Zach! I love spending time with him and the rest of my family. The training is challenging but we see it all as a big, fun game, mostly because of all the treats and fuss we get.
If a parent thinks a hearing dog like you would be useful for their child, what should they do?
The best thing for them to do is to visit the Hearing Dogs website to find out more. The charity is called Hearing Dogs for Deaf People but they don’t just help people with dogs – they have lots of different ways to make life easier for people who are deaf or have any kind of hearing loss.