- Students of Guide Dogs’ class of 2022 have arrived at the charity’s London centre to begin their official 25-week training course
- Dogs including Fordi, Ron and Atlas have come from across the UK to begin their guide dog training
- At the age of two, the dogs will be fully qualified and partnered with a person with sight loss
- To find out more about how you can support Guide Dogs’ training programme visit https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/how-you-can-help/
As children across the country get ready to return to classrooms, several trainee guide dogs are also heading off for their first day at ‘big school’.
Dogs including German shepherd Fordi, golden retriever Ron and black Labrador x golden retriever Atlas, have arrived at Guide Dogs’ London training hub for their first day at guide dog school. The dogs arrived from across the UK after being looked after by Puppy Raisers; volunteers who care for the dogs in their own homes for 12 – 14 months.
The charity asks the volunteer Puppy Raisers to provide a loving home and introduce their pup to new environments and experiences.
Once at ‘big school’ the dogs will begin Standardised Training for Excellent Partnerships (STEP) training. The training lasts 25 weeks and teaches the dogs how to guide and aid a person. It involves tasks such as avoiding obstacles, navigating road crossings and finding empty chairs for their owner to sit down.
During the training, the dogs spend their days at the regional training hubs and then live with local volunteer fosterers, who care for them overnight and during the weekends. The dogs will hopefully be fully qualified and partnered with a blind or partially sighted person by the age of two.
Demand for guide dogs is high as the disruption to Guide Dogs’ puppy breeding programme in 2020 is now being felt. Nevertheless, the charity will make hundreds of new guide dog partnerships this year, changing the lives of blind and partially sighted people around the UK.
Tim Stafford, Director of Canine Affairs at Guide Dogs, said: “The day that our dogs arrive for their first day of school is always a proud moment for our staff and volunteers.
“They come to us from the loving homes of our dedicated volunteer Puppy Raisers, who are vital in preparing puppies for their future roles; the work we do could not be done without them.
“The dogs now go onto our expert training programme, which uses positive reinforcement to teach them everything they need to learn to be successful confident guide dogs for people with sight loss.”
Find out more about becoming a volunteer and how you can support Guide Dogs at https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/how-you-can-help/
Photo credit: Matt Alexander/PA Wire