What to expect when training with a hearing dog

It’s crucial that each of our students is teamed with a dog that best suits that person’s capability, mobility, personality, lifestyle, and physical needs.  As each applicant is accepted to our program, we carefully match them with a dog that’s right for them, and the power of their bond makes ordinary moments extraordinary.  As you work through our application process, you’ll be providing us with the key information that will determine your ultimate success.  With a clear understanding of your goals and objectives, we’ll be able to craft a program that you’ll be excited to participate in since it relates to your specific needs.  

The hearing dog program is geared towards veterans and first responders who have encountered hearing loss later in life due to their service, age, head trauma, virus or disease, or other encounter.  A hearing dog recipient must have at least 30 percent hearing loss in both ears.   

Advanced Training

Once the certified VetDogs hearing dog training team understands the needs of an applicant (several months prior to the student attending class), they will build upon the foundation task and work on advanced tasks that will specifically help mitigate each student’s particular needs.  Hearing dogs are specifically trained to alert their handler to specific sounds such as a doorbell or a door knock, warning of an intruder, a smoke alarm going off, and a timer (cooking timer, microwave, etc.) signal.   

On-class Training

During class, students are immediately introduced to basic commands and the four foundations of service dog tasks in preparation for receiving their new hearing dog.  They get acquainted with equipment and handling techniques, and are then introduced to their dog.  For the remainder of the week, they work on the fundamentals of communicating and working with their new partner in various environments both on campus and in other training environments.  Training also includes basic obedience, discussions on dog care, etiquette and more. 

As the class carries over into latter part of the week, students will gain confidence in working with their dog; have a clear understanding of the tasks their dog was trained for, and how to motivate them for optimal performance. Students will also learn how to work with their dogs in various settings that include country walks; mass transit situations, including train platforms, subway, or bus travel; outings to malls and other stores; and other types of real-world situations. 

Prior to the completion of class, each new handler and dog team will have to pass the Assistance Dog International Public Access Test.  The test is to determine if the dog is safe to be in public and that the handler demonstrates that he/she has control of the dog at all times.

Program Completion

Upon completion of training, the newly created human and hearing dog team will have begun to become proficient in all of the techniques they need to be successful—from alerting to a ringing phone, a smoke alarm, to being comfortable in new and different situations. The veteran can feel confident and independent with a new companion by their side.  There is a mandatory follow-up by our instructors one-week after the completion of class to help with the transition from the class environment to their home environment.  

Should a graduate require further follow-up training, our staff will arrange to work with them on any questions or concerns they might have in a prompt and professional manner, which may include additional follow-up visits to their home to work on specific tasks or dog behavior.  Each new handler will then be required to have their dog recertified one year after program completion, then every two years.  


If you are a veteran or first responder who is interested in applying for a hearing dog, please review the following information to determine if you meet our eligibility requirements.

  • You have served in any of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces from any era, and have received an honorable discharge.
  • You are a first responder who has a work related disability.
  • You have at least 30 percent hearing loss in both ears.   
  • You can participate in our two-week training program and will be committed to our training program and schedule.
  • You are dedicated to maintaining the dog’s training throughout the life of the team and can provide for the well-being of the dog, approximately $100 per month.
  • You are able to meet the physical and emotional needs of a dog, and have an appropriate support system in place to do so if/when you are unable to yourself.
  • Also eligible are professionals working with Military organizations that provide physical or mental health care to clients who will benefit from interaction with an Assistance Dog.

How much does a hearing dog cost?

All services are provided at no cost to clients — this includes your dog, transportation to and from our campus in Smithtown, NY, instruction, and more.   

If you have any questions about our programs, please reach out to the America's VetDogs Consumer Service office at 866-282-8047 or ConsumerServices@VetDogs.org.