Top 10 Hearing Ear Dogs

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
Hearing ear dogs are specially trained to be of service to deaf or hearing impaired people by alerting them to sounds or responding to commands given in sign language. This role requires the dog to be well-balanced, have a keen sense of sound, and intelligent- and these 10 breeds fit the bill perfectly.

There’s no secret that dogs improve the quality of our lives, even “just” as pets, but when they are trained as service dogs, the benefit they bring into the daily life of some people can be astounding. Hearing ear dogs or service dogs for hearing impaired people are dogs trained to support and assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing by alerting them to sounds they wouldn’t be able to hear but need to, such as the smoke alarm, doorbell, or phone. When the hearing ear dog registers a sound he’s trained to recognize as important, they will alert their owner by nudging them with their nose or paw, or leading them towards or away from the sound if need be. In addition to alerting hearing-impaired people to sounds, hearing ear dogs can also be trained to respond to American Sign Language in case their owner is non-verbal as well.

To become hearing service dogs, canines have to go through a specific type of training that can last up to 16 months. The training is centered around teaching the dogs to perform specific tasks that would be of help to hearing-impaired people, but that’s not the only thing that these service dogs are taught. First, they go through basic socialization and obedience training which is the foundation for every service dog to be able to fulfill its role. These dogs will grow up to be friendly, well-mannered, adaptable to different scenarios, and obedient to their owner, knowing commands such as sit, stay, fetch, and other specific ones that make them hearing ear dogs. Naturally, not all dogs are cut out for this role.

Some breeds are more suited for the job of hearing ear dogs than others, and that’s mostly because of their innate character. These dogs have a stable character, they are friendly and have a people-pleasing nature, they are alert and intelligent, confident, and focused on the work at hand. Another important trait of a service dog for the hearing impaired is that they are naturally attuned to pay attention to sounds, which is common for some breeds originally bred for hunting purposes, for instance. As a result of their unique personalities, these breeds are much easier to train and much more successful in fulfilling their role as hearing ear dogs. Here are the top 10 hearing ear dogs – read on to learn more about the best breeds for service dogs for hearing impaired people.

  1. Golden Retriever

Smart, friendly, and eager to please their owners, Golden Retrievers are the most common choice for hearing ear dogs with good reason. When trained properly, these dogs grow into well-balanced, stable dogs that know all the commands to help a person with impaired hearing and happily do everything their handler requires of them. Another great thing about Golden Retrievers is that they are large but not too large for crowds or entering different pet-friendly places and that they feel at ease with people- they won’t get uncomfortable or aggressive when there are a lot of strangers around. Alert and intelligent, these dogs will always be on the lookout for situations they are trained to respond to, such as alarms or baby cries.

  1. Poodle

Considered to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world, the Poodle has no problem going through challenging and extensive training needed to gain the status of a service dog. These elegant dogs come in three sizes -toy, miniature, and standard- but it’s the miniature variation that is often picked to be a companion for deaf people due to their convenient medium size. Poodles were originally bred as retriever dogs and they still have keen senses and unparalleled smarts, so they will have no problem adjusting to their new role as a hearing aid dog. Affectionate, loyal, and easygoing around new people, Poodles will make a great pet as much as they make a great service dog.

  1. Cockapoo

A fairly new designer dog breed, Cockapoo is the result of crossbreeding Cocker Spaniels with Poodles, so their offspring get the best traits of both parents. This means that the Cockapoo is friendly, smart, and very affectionate, making him a fantastic choice for hearing ear dog training. While there are toy and mini Cockapoos, it’s the standard size (over 19 lbs) that’s most often chosen as a service dog. These dogs will quickly pick up what they are being taught and will have no problem helping you to get a full grasp of your surroundings even with impaired or no hearing. Not to mention that their sweet nature and friendly disposition will make them loved by everyone they meet- wherever you go.

  1. Labrador Retriever

Labrador retrievers may be best known as beloved family pets, but this breed is also one of the most popular choices for service dog training. Their keen senses, intelligence, and laid-back, friendly demeanor make them great as working dogs that have to be in contact with a lot of people- they will feel comfortable in crowds so you will be able to take them with you wherever you go without worrying. They are large, though, weighing 60 to 80 lbs on average, so have that in mind if you live in an apartment building with a weight limit for pets.

  1. Cocker Spaniel

Another dog breed that had its start as a hunting dog, Cocker Spaniel is a plush, royal-looking pooch with enviably keen senses and a sharp mind. These dogs are just the right size for most people -weighing under 25 lbs- and will do well in a small apartment or in a home with a big yard. Energetic and eager to work, these dogs take great joy in performing tasks and they do it with ease, which is one of the main reasons why they make great hearing ear dogs. Additionally, they have a kind nature and an outgoing personality that makes them very adaptable to all environments and surroundings.

  1. Labradoodle

Having in mind its unique parentage, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that Labradoodle is getting its five minutes of fame as a service dog and companion to hearing-impaired people. A cross between the Poodle and Labrador Retriever, this designer dog breed inherits great traits from both parents. Low-shedding, smart, friendly, and well-balanced, these unique, teddy-bear-looking dogs have been gaining popularity both as pets and as hearing ear dogs. They have a great sense of hearing, they are alert, and smart enough to learn all the commands required to assist their deaf or hearing-impaired owners- they can even be taught to respond to ALS commands. They also do great with people and kids and will steal hearts wherever they go.

  1. German Shepherd

Most often used as military or police dogs, German Shepherds don’t only shine when working in a uniform. All the traits that make them great for police or military purposes make them excellent for service dogs for deaf people as well: they are disciplined, quick learners, alert, and intelligent, and will adapt to your lifestyle, becoming a most loyal companion in addition to being a service dog. While they can be protective, they are still very obedient, so even if they might be distrustful of strangers and worried about your safety in new places, these dogs will not act out under the firm hand of their owner.

  1. Spanador

The world of designed dog breeds is rich and diverse, and many of these dogs are ideally suited to the challenges and requirements that come with being a service dog. One of these breeds is the lovely Spanador, a Labrador and Cocker Spaniel mix. This designer dog breed comes from a strong background of hunting dogs turned pets, which means it will inherit keen senses, responsiveness to commands, intelligence, and eagerness to please its owners. Needless to say, all of this is great material for becoming a hearing ear dog! When trained and socialized, these pooches also get along well with people and other pets, so they will be calm and cool in all situations.

  1. Boxer

This breed might not be the first that comes to mind when you imagine service dogs, but it’s nonetheless a fantastic option for a hearing ear dog. Incredibly intelligent, Boxers are loyal dogs that love being around people, and their drive to please, combined with smarts, makes them great for any service role, even that of dogs for deaf people. Be it learning ALS commands or attuning its senses to all the sounds that are important to their owner, Boxers have no problem fulfilling any task given to them. Add to that their goofy personality and affectionate nature, and you got yourself a companion like no other!

  1. Goldador

The offspring of two American sweetheart breeds, Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever, this crossbreed “apple” doesn’t fall far from the tree. These dogs are ready to work and love being of service- in fact, having a role or a purpose on a daily basis is more pleasure than anything else to dogs with such personalities. Sweet, smart, and always alert to their surroundings, Goldadors won’t feel out of place in a restaurant, mall, or in any crowd, and while being friendly to strangers and always wagging their tail, they won’t ever lose focus on what’s important- making sure their owner is always notified of important sounds in their environment.


There’s no “perfect” breed that has all the necessary skills to become a service dog by default, but some breeds have a set of traits that makes them more responsive to training and more likely to successfully complete it and settle in their role as hearing ear dogs. The 10 dog breeds above are either those that are most commonly chosen as service dogs for the hearing impaired or those that display traits that could make them a great option or alternative to some of the most popular service dog breeds.

To be able to be considered a hearing ear dog, any canine has to go through extensive training and socialization, and it can last well over a year to go through all the steps from basic obedience to learning specific commands. Hearing ear dogs can be taught to respond to sounds such as alarms or child cries and alert their owner by nudging them, as well as learn how to respond to commands given in American Sign Language. Usually, these dogs are custom trained by renowned organizations and experts, so you can work out the details with their handler to tailor their training to suit your needs best.

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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