Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a national charity that breeds
and trains dogs to change the lives of deaf people. Each hearing
dog is trained to alert their owner to important sounds, as well as
offering them more independence. The charity joined the Kennel Club
Assured Breeder Scheme (ABS) in 2008 and has placed more than 1830
hearing dogs with applicants since then.
With hearing loss on the rise and one in six people in the UK
suffering from some form of deafness, the charity is working to
train even more hearing dog puppies than ever before. Their
National Supply Manager, Alex Stafford-Clark, explains why the
charity joined the ABS and the importance of the scheme to
Why did you join the Assured Breeder Scheme?
We joined the scheme to ensure we were able to prove we were
breeding responsibly and to support the Kennel Club initiative. We
breed around 100 puppies each year that we train to assist deaf
people. The breeds we train to become hearing dogs are typically
Labradors, English Cocker Spaniels and Miniature Poodles. We also
train a small number of crossbreeds, such as a Cocker
Spaniel/Poodle alongside the pedigree dogs in order to ensure we
have the right dog to match all of the needs of our applicants.
What are the main strengths of being part of the Assured
Breeding our own puppies has allowed us to produce dogs of a
consistently outstanding temperament and health and therefore meet
the high standards that are required to be a hearing dog. Being on
the scheme gives us a platform to demonstrate to other
professionals and members of the public that we meet a high level
of welfare standards and understand our responsibility as breeders.
We are also aware that there are incentives on being on the scheme
that we haven't taken advantage of yet but recognise that it must
be very useful to get discounts on health tests, especially if you
are an individual breeder.
How did you find the inspection process?
We feel the inspection process is an essential part of
maintaining the quality of the scheme. The Kennel Club's UKAS
accreditation to certify scheme members adds additional credibility
to the scheme. We were reviewed at the end of last year. It was a
positive and enjoyable experience and we were inspected by a
knowledgeable and professional assessor and we are happy to say we
passed with flying colours.
The Scheme is constantly developing and is now even more
professional. I am happy to be a part of it and can only see that
if all good and responsible breeders come together as one, with a
governing body who is supportive and has extremely high standards,
we can all help to eradicate the puppy farms of today.
What steps have you taken, which are in line with ABS
requirements, to ensure dogs are raised to the best possible
Very much in line with the ethos of the ABS, we are committed to
breeding the best puppies that we can. Each hearing dog will
transform the life of a deaf person, and we make a lifetime
commitment to every partnership created. The long term health of
our dogs is therefore vital and we ensure that our dogs are given
the appropriate health tests for their breed, in line with the ABS
A high standard of train-ability is also critical in our dogs,
considering the work that they will go on to do. We ensure that our
dogs are fully socialised, which is critical given that they will
go on to accompany their owners into businesses and other public
places. Many pups will spend the first eighteen months of their
life in training. We breed a large number of dogs and it is crucial
for us that they are all given a safe and comfortable breeding
We recognise that our dogs are happiest and most relaxed in
their home environment so all our broods are whelped at home. A
trained member of the breeding team is on call leading up to the
whelp and then goes out as soon as the bitch enters labour and
stays until all the pups are born and mum is settled. All our team
receive comprehensive support throughout the 8 weeks that the pups
remain with their mum. We provide all the equipment and food and
cover any veterinary fees as well. Most importantly all our pups
receive a great grounding in early socialisation through our
customised program, to ensure we produce happy, healthy pups ready
for the next stage in their journey to becoming a Hearing Dog.
As well as practical support, hearing dogs also offer their deaf
owner greater confidence and companionship. With this in mind, we
look closely at the temperaments of the dogs that we are breeding
and strive to breed puppies that have a natural desire to form a
close bond with their handler, and will enjoy this lifetime
We regularly assess all our hearing dogs and continue to review
their health and behaviour throughout their lives. This process
allows our breeding scheme staff to ensure that they make decisions
based on the success of previous litters, which helps to improve
our litters year on year.