Interview with Vaughn Maurice, General Manager of Dogs for the Deaf

This week we bring you an interview with Vaughn Maurice, who is the general manager of Dogs for the Deaf. While the last two interviews in our Adopt-A-Dog series have Vaughn with Nelsonbeen on two very different types of organizations, Dogs for the Deaf bridges that difference by training rescue dogs from local shelters to become valuable service animals.

Started in 1977 as an organization to provide dogs for the hearing impaired, Dogs for the Deaf has expanded their operation to include not only dogs for the deaf, but also Autism Assistance Dogs, and Program Assistance Dogs.

This has been made possible largely with the help and support of Vaughn Maurice. As general manager of Dogs for the Deaf, he oversees a staff of 30 and a budget of $3 million to fulfill the mission of rescuing dogs, training them and placing them with people needing assistance.

We were able to ask him a few questions and are happy to share his responses – enjoy!

1.)Dogs for the Deaf has a pretty unique history, would you mind briefly telling our readers about it?
Dogs for the Deaf was founded 35 year ago as the world’s first training center for Hearing Assistance Dogs.
In the past 35 years we’ve place over 3000 dogs to assist people with disabilities across America, Canada and Puerto Rico.
In the past couple of years we’ve added two programs in addition to Hearing Dogs we now also train dogs as Autism Assistance Dogs to help children with autism and Program Assistance Dogs that we place in special needs classrooms, with doctors, and with therapists.
2.)Dogs for the Deaf is a bit different from a lot of service training programs, in that you adopt your service animals from homeless shelters. How do you see this as being an advantage to the program? And why?
Sadly in the United States millions of dogs are put down every year.  Rather than bring new dogs in to this equation by breeding dogs we rescue them from shelters to save lives.  Many of the dogs we’ve rescued, that are now working and helping people, may have suffered a very different fate without our program.
3.)What is the hardest thing most dogs have to overcome during the training process?
Fear of public places is one of the traits we encounter most, and can be difficult to overcome for a dog.
4.)What was the deciding factor or factors that allowed Dogs for the Deaf to train not only Hearing Dogs, but Program and Autism Assistance Dogs?
We saw a tremendous need from people who could benefit from such programs and it gave us additional opportunities to rescue more dogs.
5.)How do these dogs aid their owners in daily life? And does each dog have a different skill set tailored to the client?
All Hearing Dogs have the same basic skill set.  They alert our clients to everyday sounds such as doorbells, phones, oven timers, smoke alarms, etc. All Autism Assistance Dogs are trained as anchors for the child, but Program Assistance Dogs’ training depends on what they will be doing such as working in a medical office or classroom.
6.)What goes on during your placement training to ensure that the dog and client are a good fit for each other?
Long before placement we carefully screen the clients and wait for a dog to enter our program that we feel will be a good fit.  During placement the trainer goes to the home of the client and works for a week with the client and dog to ensure a good fit.  The trainer then maintains an on-going relationship with the client .
7.)Nelson, a Program Assistance Dog, has had a great fit with his owner and is also great in the classroom. Do you think we will be seeing more dogs in the classrooms in the future?
How do you see a Program Assistance Dog’s role in a learning atmosphere?  Nelson  is a wonderful example of a dog benefiting a classroom.  It is certainly our intension to grow that program.  Simply put, a well trained classroom dog helps the child’s learning by helping the child stay focused.
8.)What is most rewarding about working at Dogs for the Deaf?
There are so many rewarding aspects.  When we rescue dogs from shelters and bring them here it is so exciting.  As they develop through training and are learning to  help people it is cool, but to see a client with a dog that is making their life more full and independent has to be the most rewarding aspect.

Dogs for the Deaf has a pretty unique history, would you mind briefly telling our readers about it?

Dogs for the Deaf was founded 35 year ago as the world’s first training center for Hearing Assistance Dogs.  In those past  years we’ve place over 3,000 dogs to assist people with disabilities across America, Canada and Puerto Rico.  In the past couple of years we’ve added two programs in addition to Hearing Dogs; we now also train dogs as Autism Assistance Dogs to help children with autism, and Program Assistance Dogs that we place in special needs classrooms, with doctors, and with therapists.

Dogs for the Deaf is a bit different from a lot of service training programs, in that you adopt your service animals from homeless shelters. How do you see this as being an advantage to the program? And why?

Sadly in the United States millions of dogs are put down every year. Rather than bring new dogs into this equation by breeding dogs we rescue them from shelters to save lives. Many of the dogs we’ve rescued that are now working and helping people, may have suffered a very different fate without our program.

What is the hardest thing most dogs have to overcome during the training process?

Fear of public places is one of the traits we encounter most, and can be difficult to overcome for a dog.

What was the deciding factor or factors that allowed Dogs for the Deaf to train not only Hearing Dogs, but Program and Autism Assistance Dogs?

We saw a tremendous need from people who could benefit from such programs and it gave us additional opportunities to rescue more dogs.

Hearing Dog BonsiHow do these dogs aid their owners in daily life? And does each dog have a different skill set tailored to the client?

All Hearing Dogs have the same basic skill set. They alert our clients to everyday sounds such as doorbells, phones, oven timers, smoke alarms, etc. All Autism Assistance Dogs are trained as anchors for the child, but Program Assistance Dogs’ training depends on what they will be doing such as working in a medical office or classroom.

What goes on during your placement training to ensure that the dog and client are a good fit for each other?

Long before placement we carefully screen the clients and wait for a dog to enter our program that we feel will be a good fit. During placement the trainer goes to the home of the client and works for a week with the client and dog to ensure a good fit. The trainer then maintains an on-going relationship with the client .

Nelson, a Program Assistance Dog, has had a great fit with his owner and is also great in the classroom. Do you think we will be seeing more dogs in the classrooms in the future?

How do you see a Program Assistance Dog’s role in a learning atmosphere?  Nelson  is a wonderful example of a dog benefiting a classroom.  It is certainly our intention to grow that program.  Simply put, a well trained classroom dog helps the child’s learning by helping the child stay focused.

What is most rewarding about working at Dogs for the Deaf?

There are so many rewarding aspects. When we rescue dogs from shelters and bring them here it is so exciting. As they develop through training and are learning to  help people it is cool, but to see a client with a dog that is making their life more full and independent has to be the most rewarding aspect.

We at PetMeds want to thank you and everyone at Dogs for the Deaf for everything you do to rescue and support these dogs while providing a valuable companion to someone in need. Dogs for the Deaf can be reached on Facebook and Twitter.

All images used with permission of Dogs for the Deaf.

Interview conducted via email, lightly edited.

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