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A hearing dog will often wear bright orange as an identifier although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require service dogs to wear vests or any other special demarcation in the United States. Since hearing dogs are allowed access to all public spaces, many owners have found that having their canines wear a hearing dog vest causes people, restaurant and shopping center employees, for example, to not question the presence of a dog in their facility. A hearing dog vest also alerts people that the individual whom the dog is accompanying has special needs. Hearing impaired individuals have an "invisible" condition. Oftentimes, people who are hearing impaired or deaf feel isolated because their communication with the outside world is hindered. Having a dog with a vest as an identifier helps in break the ice, so to speak, increasing social interaction.
Hearing dog vests are made of a variety of materials for the animal's comfort. In warmer regions, an owner may choose to outfit their canine companion in a lightweight mesh vest, one that "breathes" and does not absorb heat. Perfect for dogs in cold climates, some Hearing Dog Vest have extra padding and are actually considered to be coats or jackets for the dog. Vendors may carry matching dog boots and paw protectors in these areas. Many hearing dog applicants prefer small or medium-sized dogs, so even tiny dogs like Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas can be outfitted in a vest their size. For ease of wear, many vests slip over the head of the dog and have an adjustable strap to customize the vest to the dog's unique size.
For extra convenience and ease of daily travel, some hearing dog vest has pockets that owners can use to store their personal belongings like car keys or dog biscuits. For added protection, a hearing dog vest may have reflectors, making crossing the street that much safer for the hearing impaired. Hearing dog vests are not only functional; they can be fashionable as well, coming in multiple colors like burgundy, blue, and even lime green. Metal ID tags, embroidered patches with identifying information or cute designs, and adjustable leashes may be attached to most vests.
When considering purchasing a hearing dog vests, consider the following: Is the vest machine washable? What climate will the dog be providing service in? Does the dog owner need large pockets on the vest, small pockets, or none at all? Will the vest be comfortable for the dog? If it has straps, are they padded for comfort and adjustable for a growing puppy?
Vests for service dogs can be purchased at many pet stores as well as a vast array of online retailers. Prices vary, but most vests range from $20 to $70.