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The training of an hearing dog

The training of the future hearing assistance dogs that the Association les Chiens du Silence gives to its recipients is a lengthy process, taking a total of 22 months, during which the dog undergoes various stages to prepare him for his future role.

This education in no way affects the character of the animal, which sees its assistance as a game and is happy to learn new things all the time!

Puppy selection

Puppies destined to become hearing dogs are selected at the age of 2 months by the breeder according to strict criteria.At this age, the breeder knows the behavior and personality of each puppy, and can therefore best help the trainer choose the puppies with the best character for the job. A calm puppy will be better suited to a person with a very sedentary pace, while a very energetic dog will be better suited to a young athlete, for example.

In all cases, the puppy must be reactive to its environment: a puppy that does not react to sound stimulation would not make a good hearing assistance dog and would therefore be put aside by the association, to become the perfect family companion!

The good health of the puppies selected is also essential to avoid disappointment. That's why the Association les Chiens du Silence works exclusively with the Des Chemins Du Korrigans kennel for its Australian shepherds, so as to offer its recipients only quality dogs whose genetics are not subject to the possible problems that can sometimes be encountered with puppies bred less seriously.

For the first few days after their arrival at the training center, they are handled and observed before moving on to the next stage of their journey!

2 months

The pre-training period: life with a foster family

After this selection, the puppies return to their new home: their foster family!

These carefully selected families have a vital mission: to begin training the puppy.

The aim of this 16-month period is to teach the puppy the basics of life in society: cleanliness, socialization (with other dogs, humans and other animals, even cats!), behavior ( learning basic commands and not to bark all the time!)....

The foster family will also introduce the dog to all the places it visits, and all the means of transportation the future assistance dog is likely to encounter: supermarkets, cinemas, trains, planes, boats, shopping malls, train stations, markets, but also cars, mountains and beaches are all places the dog will need to apprehend without fear. Elevators and escalators are also included, so he'll be ready to go absolutely anywhere with his master!

Group lessons, supervised by the Association's trainers, are also given regularly during this period.

from 2 to 18 months

The training period: returning to the education center

At the age of 18 months, the dog returns to the Association for the final part of its training. For 6 months, he will learn his role as a hearing dog from our trainers.

Outside, our dogs will be confronted with the widest possible range of situations, in addition to those already experienced with their foster family. They will learn to act as a bridge between the outside world and their future owner's world of silence.

They will also learn to respond to commands both vocal and gestural (French sign language).

At the end of these 6 months, the dog will be able to evolve in different places, without being disturbed by his environment.

He will then become a true professional, with real skills:

- 30 commands in French sign language;

- physical contact with his owner when he hears a specific or unusual sound;

- direct his owner to the source of the noise;

- react to the sound of the telephone ringing, the doorbell, the call of a person, all daily sounds.

At the end of this training, each dog is awarded a certificate of aptitude and officially named a hearing assistance dog!

from 18 to 24 months

The handover: meeting with the recipient

Now that he's ready for his job as an assistance dog, the dog still has one vital test to pass: meeting his future owner!

A source of joy but also, sometimes, of a little stress, this is a period of variable length during which the recipient meets his future companion for the first time and learns the rudiments of living with him.

The trainers teach them everything from how to feed and care for their faithful companion and recognize the signs it is sending them, to how to manage day-to-day life with the one who will support them for the next few years!

This is an important and decisive time: a bond must be created between the 2 future companions, and the trainers have the onerous task of ensuring that the person will be able to handle the dog.

At the end of this period, if all has gone well, the dog leaves with its owner, and the pair will be seen periodically, in their new home, by the Association's trainers to ensure that everything is going well for both dog and human!

24 months

Occasionally, a dog may not be able to continue in the program: our trainers are attentive to the well-being of each dog, from pre-education to handover and beyond!

If a dog has a health problem (whether major or minor), or is uncomfortable in its role (e.g. shyness), it may be withdrawn from the program and reformed. It’s absolutely out of the question for us for a dog to be unhappy or suffer, so we sometimes take the hard decision to reform a dog for his or her well-being!

A trained dog is...
  • watchful
  • calm
  • curious
  • qualified
  • happy
  • professional
!

Training a dog for 22 months has a cost, entirely supported by the Association les Chiens du Silence: the dogs are given to their recipient for free.

It’s thanks to the generosity of the public that we can continue this mission, which is so dear to our hearts!