Scotland's First "Dual Assistance" Dog
Editor: Guide dogs for the blind have been around for many years, and
hearing dogs are becoming more common all the time. Are there dogs that
are trained to be both? I'm guessing that "dual assistance"
dogs have been around for awhile, too, but I don't recall ever hearing
about any. So I found this news release from the participating British
charities especially interesting. Hope you do too!
Two assistance dog charities, Hearing Dogs and Guide Dogs, have
worked very closely together over the past year to train the first-ever
dual purpose dog. Roddy, a beautiful Labrador cross golden retriever,
has been trained as both a hearing dog and a guide dog for Angela
Hassall who lives in Crewe in Cheshire.
Angela has been severely deaf since she was eight, and applied for
her first hearing dog over 12 years ago, and since that time she has had
two hearing dogs, mongrels Buster and Darvo. In 1999 Angela began to
lose her sight, and even though she still went out and about with her
hearing dog, she was becoming anxious and frightened. In desperation she
rang Hearing Dogs to say she did not think she could cope with Darvo any
more as her vision was becoming so poor, and asked Claire Guest,
operations director at Hearing Dogs, whether there was any possibility
of a dog being trained as both a hearing dog and a guide dog.
Claire immediately contacted Guide Dogs and a series of meetings and
conversations ensued between the two charities to determine whether
indeed it was possible to train a dual purpose dog. Agreement was
reached that Hearing Dogs and Guide Dogs would work very closely
together to try and help Angela, and then followed the all-important
search for the right dog. This was the first dilemma as Guide Dogs look
for dogs that are calm and not reactive to noise, whereas Hearing Dogs
look for dogs that are inquisitive and alert with a definite interest in
However, Roddy was chosen by both teams of trainers as being the
perfect candidate, and he began his early guide dog training last year
under the eye of trainer Richard Whormsley, who described him as being
sound and willing from the start. Having successfully completed this
part of the project, Roddy then came under the experienced wing of
Jackie Boyle, a trainer at Hearing Dogs' northern centre in Selby.
During this time he learned to alert to several household sounds
including the alarm clock, doorbell, telephone and smoke alarm. Jackie
is full of praise for Roddy and enthuses that he is one of the best
hearing dogs she has ever trained. She had to adapt his training to take
into account that on bad days Angela had barely any sight at all, so
Roddy had to learn extra skills when alerting to sounds.
Three months later Roddy went back to finish his guide dog training
with Guide Dog mobility instructor Tony Cook, who was also deeply
impressed - not only with Roddy's capabilities but also with Angela's
eagerness to learn. "She was so forward-thinking, and prepared to
take on all the challenges that face guide dog owners, even though she
has the added problem of a severe hearing loss," he explains.
During this period, Roddy's hearing dog training was also kept up, with
Tony and Jackie working closely together to ensure his soundwork and
guide work ran in tandem. Roddy became a fully qualified guide dog in
July of this year, and four months later he achieved fully trained
hearing dog status.
Roddy is indeed a unique dog that has completely transformed Angela's
life. From feeling frightened of going out of the house once her sight
deteriorated, she now says she is hardly ever in. "When I first
approached Claire about the possibility of a hearing and guide
dog," she says, "this is what I hoped for, and it is exactly
what I have got. I know how much Roddy means to me - he is a very
About Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a registered charity that selects and
trains dogs to respond to specific sounds. Hearing dogs alert deaf
people by touch, using a paw to gain attention and then lead them back
to the sound source. For sounds such as the smoke alarm and fire alarm
the dogs will lay down to indicate danger. Seventy four per cent of all
hearing dogs adopted into the scheme are either rescued or unwanted and
since its inception in 1982, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People has placed
nearly 1000 hearing dogs.
About Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is the leading charity
providing guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services that
enable blind and partially sighted people to lead the fullest and most
independent lives possible.
For further information contact:
Hearing Dogs: Jenny Moir T 01844 348 108 M 07769 901309
Guide Dogs: Alison Wade T 0118 983 8380 M 07768 523996