the 18-month-old Lhasa Apso, is one of over 830 working hearing
dogs in the UK, and although he may not, strictly speaking,
be original, he is certainly one of only a handful to have
attained the much-coveted title of Hearing Dog of the Month
When he was two months old, Werther was donated to national charity, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, by a breeder in Yorkshire. He went to live with a volunteer socialiser for six months, during which time he became a confident, friendly little dog that loved meeting people. He also started showing an interest in various household sounds an excellent trait for a would-be hearing dog.
Like all hearing dogs, Werther then embarked on four months soundwork training when he learned to alert to the specific sounds required by his deaf recipient, Jeanette Joynson of West London. These sounds include the doorbell, cooker timer, call help, smoke alarm, fire bell and telephone, and when he hears any of these sounds he is trained to find Jeanette and scrabble at her with both paws until she asks What is it? He will then lead her to the source of the sound, unless it is a danger sound such as the smoke alarm or fire bell, in which case he will alert Jeanette in the usual way but then drop straight to the floor to indicate danger.
There is another sound to which Werther is trained to alert his owner. No longer does Jeanette miss appointments and trains because she has not heard the alarm clock now she is woken by Werther jumping on the bed and scrabbling at her until she gets up!
Jeanette has a very busy life, and living in London as she does she needed a hearing dog that could cope with noisy and crowded situations. Werther has risen to this challenge perfectly, and is a common sight, not only at Jeanettes lip-reading classes, but also in many of Londons busy shopping centres, joining thousands of other seasoned commuters regularly travelling on tubes and trains.
Another of Werthers claims to fame is his budding modelling career. He features on the front cover of Hearing Dogs for Deaf Peoples catalogue, and has been photographed being cuddled by EastEnders actress Pam St Clement! Perhaps Werther is original after all...
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.
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People provides a national service and no charge is made to recipients. Since its inception in 1982, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People has placed over 830 hearing dogs. The Charity has three centres operating in the UK.