According to research from charity Guide Dogs, one person goes blind every hour in the UK, which is why it’s crucial to train more puppy guide dogs.
Guide dogs are bred to work incredibly hard and are very intelligent dogs. Breeds used for guide dog purposes include German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Labrador Retrievers.
Other breeds such as Flat Coated Retrievers, Curly Coated Retrievers, Border Collies and the Standard Poodle are being recognised as good support dogs and crossbred with the traditional guide dog breeds.
A puppy guide dog is introduced to their volunteer walker between the ages of six to eight weeks old and are well socialised with puppy classes.
When they turn one years of age, puppy guide dogs are sent to a school where they are introduced to wearing the brown training harness and taught how to:
- Walk in a straight line
- Not turn corners unless told to do so
- Stop at kerbs and stop
- Stop at kerbs and wait for the command to turn left or right
- To deal with traffic
- To judge height and width so their owner doesn’t hit themselves on any obstacles
Once an owner has been carefully selected for a dog (factors taken into account include the owner’s lifestyle, height and length of stride, they will train together for four weeks.
If the guide dog is successful, then the owner hands over 50p, the guide dog receives a white or blue harness and the working partnership begins.
If you see a guide dog on the street
If you see a guide dog on the street you must never touch it. Remember that this dog is responsible for keeping its blind or partially sighted owner safe. Petting a guide dog will distract it from its duty.
Likewise you should never, ever call out to a guide dog as it’ll lose its concentration on listening out for traffic and watching out for obstacles.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from asking the owner to pet their guide dog. Some owners allow some people to touch their dogs, while others prefer the dog be completely solicitous to them.
Food and treats are used to motivate and train puppy guide dogs and are only fed by their handlers. You should therefore never offer a guide dog treats or food.
It costs approximately £50K to breed, train and support a guide dog through its life
Find out what your local guide dog center is doing near you and get involved.
Watch this video
If you’ve got 30 mins to spare on the commute or on a lazy weekend morning, we highly recommend you watch this short documentary following four guide dogs and their puppy trainers in the US. It really does show you a an insight into the hard work and challenges these puppy guide dogs face.