Puppy Socialising

Quebert as a young pup.

Being a puppy socialiser is immensely rewarding. Knowing you have helped to raise a dog that has gone on to become a fully trained Hearing Dog and made a huge difference to someone’s life, is very fulfilling.

Alison Renwick has been a socialiser for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People on and off since 1999.

We got our first puppy in September 1999. She was a black Labrador called Poppy and was 11 weeks old. We kept her until February 2000 when she passed her assessment and began her training to become a fully-fledged Hearing Dog for a Deaf Person. We have met her a couple of time since then and she is a happy healthy dog who makes the world of difference to her recipient.

Being a socialiser can be hard work and frustrating, but overall it is very rewarding. When I see the dog I helped bring up working for her recipient and get letters and emails from other people who have dogs I socialised all that melts away. Being a socialiser is about helping give a new life to a person, giving that person confidence to go out on their own, giving them ‘ears’ to help with all the sounds hearing people take for granted.

My job as a socialiser is to take a puppy or young dog into my house, teach it basic obedience and manners and most importantly take it out and about to ‘socialise’ it. The dogs need to be taught to behave in shops, get used to public transport, traffic, meet all sorts of people, prams, shopping trolleys and all the other everyday hustle and bustle that most pet dogs won’t be exposed to. Each new situation is approached gradually so the dog is comfortable and relaxed and it is rewarded for each achievement.

Hearing Dogs cover all food and vet bills and each dog has a special lead slip with Hearing Dog Puppy on it. This enables us to take the dog into shops and to those places normally off limits to other dogs. Most people are very accommodating when you explain what you are doing.

You don’t need experience to be a socialiser as help is given, it doesn’t matter if you have your own dog (so long as it will accept other dogs into your home) you just need time, patience and a love of dogs. The reward is knowing how much you have helped someone else.

We have now had 9 dogs to socialise, 5 of whom are out working. The others that failed for various reasons are happily rehomed. Our current recruit is a Labrador x Retriever called Quebert. He was 9 months old in April and is coming on well. And yes I will be very sad when he goes but I know he will make someone a wonderful Hearing Dog and that gives me a very warm and fuzzy feeling.