PAWS Hearing Dogs are custom-trained to assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing by physically alerting their partner to common sounds such as a smoke alarm, doorbell, alarm clock, telephone ring or child’s cry. A Hearing Dog nudges or paws its partner alerting them to a sound and then leads them to its source. Hearing Dogs can also be taught to respond to American Sign Language for people who are non-verbal.
In addition to performing tasks related to a hearing loss, a PAWS Dog can also be trained to assist with tasks related to a seizure disorder or physical disability.
“It was amazing to see how much goes into training these dogs and how much is put into picking the perfect dog for each recipient. I honestly went home and cried with appreciation.”
Jessica, PAWS Hearing Dog Client
Before receiving her Hearing Dog PIPPEN, Jessica was an anxious wife and mother of two. Her hearing loss affected her life and the lives of those she loved most in more ways than she cared to admit. Always on alert, Jessica found it difficult to relax in her own home. Phone calls, doorbells and alarms would go unheard. Dinners would burn beyond recognition. The fear of a house fire led to sleepless nights.
Jessica was born with Pendred syndrome, a genetic condition causing severe hearing loss. Due to her exceptional lip-reading ability, Jessica was four before she was diagnosed. However, even with hearing aids, Jessica still had a profound hearing impairment.
In spite of her hearing loss, Jessica has lived life to the fullest. She earned a degree in Photography at Lansing Community College and traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, where she lived for several years with her husband. She now owns her own photography business. When you consider her accomplishments, it’s easy to overlook the daily challenges she faced as a result of her hearing loss.
Jessica decided to apply for a PAWS Hearing Dog. She admits she didn’t realize at first how comprehensive the program was. “It was amazing to see how much goes into training these dogs and how much is put into picking the perfect dog for each recipient,” said Jessica. “I honestly went home and cried with appreciation.”
Throughout the placement process, Jessica was impressed by how much work went into training not only the dogs, but training the clients. She spent time learning how to work, bond and continue training with her dog.
Jessica refers to Hearing Dog PIPPEN, a male Papillon, as “8½ pounds of pure gold.” With his ears, Jessica can answer the phone, wake up on time and cook delicious dinners. She is able to nap with her 2½-year-old at home without worrying that the house will burn down. “Just being able to relax is a huge deal,” she confessed.
With PIPPEN and the assistance of PAWS staff, Jessica has grown more confident. “It makes me feel powerful when I go out knowing the rights of those with Assistance Dogs are being advocated for and that if we ever run into trouble, PAWS is there for us,” Jessica remarked. “Nobody should ever be made to feel they can’t bring their Assistance Dog with them to a public place, so education is key.”
Jessica is “eternally grateful” to PAWS and everyone who helped bring PIPPEN into her life.
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To be eligible for a PAWS Hearing Dog, an individual must:
If the applicant is younger than PAWS’ minimum age, visit www.assistancedogsinternational.org for a list of other ADI programs that may train for younger children.
While Paws With A Cause has established eligibility criterion for the types of Assistance Dogs we provide, we do not discriminate against any applicant based on race, color, creed, gender, religion, marital status, age, nationality, physical or mental disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, citizenship status, military service status or any other consideration as indicated by federal, state or local laws.
PAWS Service Dogs, Seizure Response Dogs and Service Dogs for Children with Autism are primarily Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and crosses of the two breeds. PAWS Hearing Dogs may be Retrievers or small breed dogs. Occasionally, PAWS has Poodles or Poodle mixes reserved for clients in need of a hypo-allergenic dog. All dogs must pass specialized health and temperament screenings to be accepted into training.
Some of our dogs are donated by private individuals or breeders, while others come from our own strategic breeding program. PAWS makes every attempt to rescue dogs from animal shelters for training when qualified dogs are available.
Due to the highly specialized nature of Assistance Dog work, we do not consider a client's own dog for training.
We do not train dogs to predict seizures, only to respond to a seizure that is happening. PAWS does not train dogs to provide weight-bearing support while walking, but may train a dog to counter-balance for a client needing mobility assistance.
PAWS Dogs have over 40 tasks they could be trained in, including retrieving and delivering dropped items, tugging to remove items of clothing and opening doors. Service Dogs may pull a lightweight manual wheelchair or turn lights on and off. Hearing Dogs primarily alert and orient clients to common sounds. Seizure Response Dogs respond to a client’s seizure by summoning help or providing stimulation. Service Dogs for Children with Autism act as a constant companion to a child to help them improve social, communication and life skills.
We do not train Guide Dogs for people who are blind, for diabetic alert/response, to anticipate or detect medical symptoms, for the primary benefit of emotional comfort, to recognize and/or manage undesirable human behavior, to provide supervision, navigation, or safety from environmental hazards, to respond aggressively, to provide personal protection or to assist with the management of mental illness (such as PTSD, etc.) as a primary condition.
People with a physical disability, hearing impairment, seizure disorder or a child with autism who can demonstrate that an Assistance Dog will enhance their independence or their quality of life are qualified to apply. PAWS can only accept a limited number of applications per year from individuals who live in areas serviced by a PAWS Field Representative. Although many individuals with disabilities are eligible and in need of an Assistance Dog, PAWS will determine and select individuals where the tasks provided by PAWS’ highly trained dogs will be of the greatest benefit.
Individuals applying for a Service or Seizure Response Dog must be at least 14 years old with age appropriate cognitive ability. Those applying for a Hearing Dog must be 18 years or older. Families applying for a Service Dog for Children with Autism must have a child with autism between 4-12 years old: application must be received by 7th birthday; Needs Assessment completed by 9th birthday; placement prior to 12th birthday.
The dog is provided at no cost to the client. However, PAWS needs to raise $30,000 to cover the cost of breeding, care, customized training and continued support of each team. The significant majority of funds raised by PAWS come from individual donors. PAWS also receives support from businesses, foundations and community groups (eg: AMVETS and AMVETS Auxiliaries, Lions and Lionesses, Order of the Eastern Star).
PAWS promotes a “pay it forward” culture. Once a client achieves certification, we encourage them to consider hosting a Personal Campaign to benefit another client still waiting for a PAWS Dog. We are happy to work with certified clients willing to fundraise on PAWS’ behalf, and have the tools to make it easy.
Accepted clients in the waiting pool for a PAWS Dog who wish to host a Personal Campaign for PAWS may do so. However, it is not a requirement to receive a PAWS Dog, nor will it help a waiting client get a dog more quickly.
For more information on giving to PAWS, click here.
From the time an application is received to the completion of the in-home Needs Assessment can be as long as 24 months. If a client is accepted into the program after the Needs Assessment, they will go into the pool of all clients waiting to be paired with a PAWS Dog. For all clients in the “waiting pool”, the search to find an appropriate dog begins right away. However, depending on the individual needs of the client, and the individual qualities of the dogs in training available, it may take another 1-4 years to find the right match.
Finding the right dog to match your specific needs, personality and environment is not an exact science. Many factors are taken into consideration, with the ultimate goal being to find the best dog to meet your unique needs. Also, not every dog successfully completes training; sometimes we must start the matching process over.
PAWS does place an Assistance Dog in homes that have cats, birds or other small caged pets. Effective September 1, 2012, no PAWS Assistance Dog will be placed in a home with any other dog, unless it is a retired PAWS Dog or working Assistance Dog from an Assistance Dogs International or International Guide Dog Federation-accredited agency for someone else in the household. It has been our experience that other dogs in the home can interfere with the bonding and training process of the Assistance Dog Team.
Typically, dogs are approximately 18-24 months old.
Clients must be able to follow through with the in-home and public (if applicable) training process with their local PAWS Field Representative. Clients must be committed to maintaining the dog’s training throughout the lifetime of the team and to providing for the well-being of the dog (veterinary care, proper grooming, exercise, etc.). It is advisable to research yearly veterinary, grooming and feeding costs in your specific area prior to applying for an Assistance Dog. Paws With A Cause provides ongoing training support for its teams.
Yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees the right of a person with a qualifying disability to be accompanied by their individually trained Assistance Animal in public venues. The Fair Housing Act allows for trained Assistance Animals in apartments or other no-pet housing at no additional cost to the person with a disability. More information can be found at www.ada.gov and www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/title8.php