Meet Flora my new Hearing Ear Dog


Flora 1

Well folks, we have a new working family member.  Meet “Flora” my Hearing Ear Dog!

Flora is a Flat Coat Retriever.  I never heard of this breed before meeting Flora (but then again, I never hear a lot of things…).    This is a fairly old breed.  Dating back to the early 1800’s, this breed was the most popular birding dog, before Labradors and Golden Retrievers were developed.

Flora with her cool camo vest to keep burrs off her beautiful coat.

Flora with her cool camo vest to keep burrs off her beautiful coat.

In appearance, the Flat-Coated Retriever resembles a black or brown Golden Retriever. Flat-Coats are often called the “Peter Pan” of retrievers. They generally mature more slowly than other dogs and maintain their puppy-like exuberance for years. In my experience, the best Hearing Ear Dogs combine intelligence, playfulness, and an eagerness to please.  So far Flora seems to be all those things.  I do notice that she while she is a responsive and sensitive dog, harsh corrections will cause her to shut down until I make amends.  She tried to eat some nachos off the coffee table, and I scolded her for that.  She marched into the corner to pout for 20 minutes until I encouraged her to come back into the room.

This is her usual happy-go-lucky face!

This is her usual happy-go-lucky face!

Flora is a tolerant and friendly dog.  She adores everyone, perhaps a bit too much.  Thank goodness for the “Halti” head collar.  These things are a godsend for anyone trying to control a large or busy dog. Flora is definitely both of those things. The Halti works off the theory that a dog does not like to walk with its head turned left or right. If Flora pulls the leash, or forges off in a different direction, the energy is gently transferred into turning Flora’s head, thus stopping the behavior.

Halti

Note that even though Flora may appear to be a bit of a spaz in public, this same energy and playfulness are what will make her a fantastic hearing ear dog.  Plus, she is only 14 months old; she is still a bit of a puppy.  For the record, for those of you who knew Amie my previous hearing ear dog, she also required the use of a Halti for the first 3 years I had her until she settled down.  Radar, my first hearing ear dog, was a breeze to handle in public, but he never had the passion for hearing ear dog work as Amie did.  So my point is that smart and playful dogs are the best Hearing Ear Dogs.

One thing I am working on with Flora is to curb her desire to jump up on everyone and kiss their faces (she is long enough to do that with most average sized people).  First, the Halti collar will get rid of most of this behavior.  Second, the rule for everyone is as follows.  If you want to pet Flora, she must be sitting first.  Training a correct behavior that is incompatible with the undesired behavior is better that a harsh correction.  So in this case, we will make her sit first, give her a treat for a reward (I will have them, not you) and then we pet her and say hello.  If she tries to jump up, I will restrain her with the Halti, and you must not pet her.

Flora, like all Flat-Coat Retrievers require a fait bit of exercise. Flora needs a give 45-minute walk, run, or other activity daily to satisfy her exercise needs. The nice thing though is that once she has her exercise, she enjoys relaxing with us at home.  So she does have the capacity to settle down.  As I like to run, this makes her a perfect match for me.  We have gone on 2 runs so far and it has been great!  I now have a buddy to run with.

I am also amazed at how loyal Flora is and how well we have already bonded after only a few days.  She follows me everywhere, even to the bathroom, which is not a wise thing to do especially after I have consumed some Chicken Tikka Masala with extra Pataks Hot Curry Paste.  I left her with the family yesterday while I went to the gym…apparently she just stared at the door for almost an hour waiting for me.  Here’s the picture my wife took…

Flora is waiting for me to come home...

Flora is waiting for me to come home…

Just as a final reminder why I have decided to get another Hearing Ear Dog, please click here to read my previous post on this topic.   If you are too lazy to do that, then I will sum it up again.  Without my CI, I hear nothing whatsoever.  Therefore for at least 10 hours out of 24, I won’t hear any sounds such as fire alarms, door knocks, alarm clocks or phone calls.  Secondly, the microphones of hearing aids or CI’s really work best in a 2-3 meter (6-9 foot) range.  So if I am on another floor of the house for example, my ability to hear sounds is very inconsistent.  Finally, there is the issue of signal to noise ratio.  Even if something is close by I can’t hear it if there are other competing sounds such as the television.

Some Rules for Everyone.

  1. Don’t feed Flora.  Anything.  Ever.  Don’t even ask me.  No exceptions.
  2. Don’t pet her unless you ask me.
  3. If I do allow you to pet her, she will need to sit first, and then you can pet her.  If she tries to jump up and kiss you, turn away.  This behavior should go away in time.

That’s really it for rules for you.

I want to thank Tracy Church and the Hearing Ear Dog Team at Lions Foundation of Canada for training such a wonderful animal for me.  If any of you are feeling the urge to donate money to a worthy cause, I cannot think of a better one.

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26 thoughts on “Meet Flora my new Hearing Ear Dog

  1. Peter: Congratulations on getting your new dog, Flora! She is a beauty! I wish her a long, healthy life. I am sure she will love being your hearing ear dog. I love the vest she has. What a great idea! Our sheltie, Lily sure could use one. We are very careful as far as burrs are concerned but as you know you can never be too careful in the burr department! You mentioned Radar. Of course, I have a very soft spot for him. He was a wonderful dog and you mention that perhaps he wasn’t as passionate about his job as a hearing ear dog as he should have been. Well, I suppose it wasn’t all his fault. I’m afraid that your colleagues at the time (including me) were a bad influence and encouraged him to forget about his job. All the best to you, Flora and your family. Tina Zink-Brawn

    • Thanks Tina! Don’t get me wrong…Radar was a wonderful dog. A pleasure to take out in public. But it seems the more docile and well behaved the dog is in public, the less zeal the dog may have for Hearing Ear Dog work. The trick is finding the right balance. With some work, I am sure Flora will be great!

  2. Peter, I am happy to hear that you have a new dog. I guess I should say that I am so happy to read that you have a new dog. She is beautiful. Seeing her pictures makes me really miss having a dog of my own. After our last dog Skye, died of cancer I haven’t wanted another one. It is so sad to think of even now. You are very wise Peter to set out the rules from the start. Take care and enjoy your new partner. Jill

    • Thanks Jennifer. I know the feeling you describe. When Amie died of cancer, I did not think any dog could replace her. Well, Flora does not replace her anymore than Amie replaced Radar. Each dog is unique and special in their own way. Its like saying you can only love one child…there is plenty of room in our hearts to love more.

  3. Congrats Peter! Flora is gorgeous and you can tell from her eyes and face that she is friendly, intelligent and inquisitive. The pic of her at the door waiting for you is the cutest. She is already attached to you. Can’t wait to meet her! Joan

  4. Congratulations! I have an almost 10 year old flattie and enjoyed your story about the pouting. Our dog Jazz pouts and sighs in the most pathetic way. Your patience with training her will pay off. We often receive comments on how well behaved Jazz is. They have no idea of how strict and patient we had to be. (Thank God for the Halti.) However, she is still very much a puppy even now. On a recent walk she met a new dog and they began to play. The dog’s owner asked, “How old is your puppy?” Needless to say they were a bit shocked that she is 9. The one thing that never changes is the constant happy tail wagging: they can clear a coffee table in one swipe:) I hope you and Flora have many years together as she learns to become the helper you need.

    • Hi Lisa. Thanks for the comments! Nice to hear from another Flattie owner. Flora is doing very well. With the Halti and some training, her jumping on other people is already dramatically reduced. They are smart creatures!

  5. Hi, Peter. I “met” Flora from a distance the last time I was at the dog school. She’s a beautiful girl. I suspect I’ll be back at the school within the year, as my Bosley has stage V lymphoma and is in his eleventh week after receiving an eight week prognosis. 😦

  6. Hi Peter, Have really enjoyed hearing about Flora, she’s lovely.

    Just to say thanks for the advice you gave me about which instruments to try with my particular hearing loss. I tried both guitar and harp, I liked both, but in the end the harp won out. Its been great, ive been able to hire a harp, there’s a teacher that lives near, and its the most wonderful calming instrument. The good thing about a harp for anyone that has hearing loss is that you feel the vibration of the string as the harp rests on the shoulder and the strings are not too far from the ear . Some harps are louder than others, but you can amplify them.

    So thanks again. Looking forward to further blogs.

    All the best, Susan

    • Dear Peter,

      Now I’ve been playing the harp a while, I would like to sing with it. The only trouble is is that I have a problem hearing the level of my own voice and in the higher ranges determining the quality of it! I wondered if you might be able to suggest a microphone that would concentrate on my voice? Thanks susan

  7. Hi Peter, I just stumbled upon your blog, and was so excited to read about Flora! Last fall, I attended a class in the Training Centre in Oakville specifically for puppy foster families (I just got my first foster puppy in January). And I met and “worked” briefly with Flora!! It was a wonderful experience, especially since a very good friend of mine had been fostering Frannie, Flora’s sister! Small world! Enjoyed your post very much.

    • Hi Ellen.

      Thank you so much for sharing this with me. I am always so impressed with people like you who take these little pups into their homes. As a hearing ear dog owner, I am deeply grateful for the contributions you make. Thanks so much!

  8. Oh Peter—I am SO happy my friend Ellen, sent along the link to your blog! I am “the friend” who fostered Frannie–Flora’s litter mate. The flat coats are a WONDERFUL breed. I have fostered 5 puppies—and we used to raise Scotch Collies–Frannie seemed to be the temperament of a collie, mixed with a Golden, and with the playfulness (but not EverReady playfulness) of a lab. She was just so loveable, and loved to please! I miss our morning jaunts on our farm. She is in training right now, for seeing eye–and I couldn’t be more pleased! She needed a challenge, and is doing quite well. Looking at your photos, it brings back such good memories of our year together. I am looking forward to puppy #6, when there is one available. I love the Goldens and now, the Flat Coats. They are my new favourite breed! Enjoy Flora–I am happy that she makes a difference in your life, and brings you the security of knowing you will not miss something important that needs to be heard. All the best with your new partner.

      • I need to read things more carefully as you did mention that Frannie is in training for Canine Vision Dog. I think that makes sense since it sounds like Frannie has a calmer temperament than Flora. Flora is full of beans…I need to take her for a run every morning 30-45 minutes for her to be reasonably calm throughout the day. I can’t imagine Flora calmly guiding a person with visual impairment throughout the day! But Flora’s energy levels make her a great Hearing Ear Dog.

  9. I hope you can give me words of advice, I have a pug who is wonderful with my mother who is profoundly deaf. She is 94. We are working with him to be a hearing ear dog with my mom. In the meantime, my husband of 38 years passed away. The pug is now my mother’s companion. My condo complex will not let me keep her. I live in Massachusetts. Help! My mom moved in with me.

    • Hi Cindy. Sorry for the delay in responding. Flora and I have been travelling across the country for work.

      I am not sure about the rules in Massachusetts. But I know that in Ontario where I live, the Hearing Ear Dog needs to be from a proper training facility.

      If I were you, I would do 2 things. First, find out what the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) says about hearing ear dogs.

      Second, I would find out who provides Hearing Ear Dogs in your state and then ask them what the rules are.

      Hope this helps.

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