As it is volunteers week from the 1-7 June 2014 I thought it was a perfect time to blog about my volunteering role as a puppy socialiser for the Hearing Dogs for the Deaf and my life with Rusty the future Hearing Dog
Hearing Dogs for Deaf mission is to offer greater independence, confidence and companionship to deaf people by providing dogs trained to alert them to chosen everyday sounds.
Nearly 10 million people in the UK experience some degree of hearing loss. That’s one person in every six. Over half a million are severely or profoundly deaf. We want to help as many of these people as possible by creating life-changing partnerships between deaf people and specially trained hearing dogs.
What I see my role is as a puppy socialiser
As a puppy socialiser my role is to take in a puppy from the age of 8 weeks to live in my home to approx 14-16 months of age
- To toilet train the puppy
- Teach basic obedience with the assistance of our puppy trainer
- Attend fortnightly puppy classes
- Introduce the puppy to lots of difference people
- Introduce the puppy to lots of different environments
- Take the puppy on some everyday trips you would take, ie shops, cafe
- Take puppy to the vets when needed and care after any operations
- Expose puppy to everyday household noises
- Socialise with other dogs
- Provide, love, food and water
- Provide company
What do I gain from puppy socialising
- Fun and laughter of having a puppy in the house
- Friendship from puppy and new friends made
- Sense of achievement
- Feeling proud to be playing an important part of changing someones life
- Cute puppy cuddles!
Questions I am often asked
1. How can you let him go at the end? I could never do it.
On my daily walks with Rusty this is the most common thing I get asked! I am coming across dog owners who love their dogs dearly and could never imagine letting their dogs go, the difference is with Rusty is that I have known from day one that he is not mine, that he will one day go on and do something really special and he is going to love it! Yes it will be hard and yes there is going to be tears from everyone but it sounds bad but we can have another one, we can send Rusty off to do something really fun and rewarding for him and we can be distracted by another cute puppy and start all over again!
2. Why would you want to keep getting another puppy to go through the chewing and toileting phases all over again?
Why wouldn’t you want a cute little puppy in your house again??!! Those lovely squishy cuddles, cute little face and the little puddles all over your house!! Well I hope I am not jinxing it but Rusty toilet trained in 5 days after then we had the odd accident but that would have been my fault for leaving it a little too long or not looking out for signs.
Rusty has his own patch in the garden which he has to toilet on and I think this has worked brilliant for it, he knows when mummy puts him on the patch that he knows he needs to ‘hurry up’ so I think the Hearing Dogs puppies are very clever little pups and you won’t get too many puddles! Also this part doesn’t last very long and soon you get a lovely happy confident puppy to work with. It is lovely seeing them grow up and learn new things.
3. If the deaf person cannot talk easily how does the dog know what to do?
We teach the puppies sign language! Well, we do hand signals for each command, I now automatically do a hand signal when asking Rusty to do things, it is something that ends up normal to you. Dogs are reading our body langauge all the time so they respond really well to hand signals. We use whistles for recall as well.
4.What does a Hearing Dog do?
The Hearing Dogs will be trained to alert the deaf recipient to general everyday noises that they need to hear, doorbell, telephones, smoke alarms, carbon dioxide alarms, baby monitors, offers confidence to get out and about, cooker timers and a ‘call alert’ to enable someone to get the dog to go and get the deaf person to bring them to them.
5. Can I be a puppy socialiser if I work?
You cannot be one if you work full-time, if you live near the centres you could be a B&B cover where you have a dog that is in doing its training but it needs to go home to someone each night of the week and during the weekend. If you work part-time you may be able to be a puppy socialiser.
6. Why am I doing it?
When my twins started school I had more time on my hands, dogs and dog training is something I really enjoy doing. I find it very rewarding watching Rusty grow as a pup, learning new things and working with him. He loves working with you and loves getting up and doing things at puppy class. He isn’t that great at settling but that is just because he wants to work with me. I am very proud that I am playing a part in Rustys training, I cannot wait until he goes into his training and I get that call to say he has passed! (fingers crossed!)
I know then that there will be a deaf person out there getting that call to and the excitement that they will feel knowing that now their life is going to be changing for the better. They will have the enjoyment of Rusty in their life and the ease of life they now have ahead of them.
Please do take a look at the Hearing Dogs website as there is lots of volunteering opportunities around the UK there maybe something near you that interests you.