When people think of a working dog, they usually think of a Labrador Retriever or German Shepherd. But strange as it may sound, Shih Tzus are now in high demand as working dogs for the hearing impaired.
Hearing (or signal) dogs help people who are completely or partially deaf. Their main responsibility is to alert their owners of any important sounds in the home, workplace, and public area around them. Hearing dogs are trained to react to everyday sounds such as a doorbell ringing or alarm clock, as well as fire alarms and police sirens.
Not only do hearing dogs help people physically, they also help them gain the confidence to live an active and independent life.
What makes the Shih Tzu an ideal hearing dog?
- His small size: Although a Labrador Retriever has the instinct to work, the Shih Tzu has an advantage in his small size. A hearing dog needs to go everywhere with his owner—including restaurants, planes, trains, and grocery stores. The Shih Tzu's small size allows him to fit almost anywhere. He can sit nicely under a table in a restaurant and in a carry-on crate when flying.
- His big personality: A hearing dog needs to be patient, alert, and friendly. The Shih Tzu is an independent breed that gets along with people and other animals. They are confident dogs and are able to remain calm under even the most stressful situations.
Although Shih Tzus are well suited for the hearing dog job, there is one small drawback. Any owner of a Shih Tzu has to have the patience to groom him. As a long-haired dog, the breed needs to be groomed on a regular basis.