I’m sure you’ve seen a guide dog before. Typically, a wonderful Retriever breed – Labbie or Golden – in a hi-vis jacket patiently sitting and waiting or gently trotting along leading their buddy. Calm and focussed they need little to no instruction and seem like calm little angels. Well, that wonderful little doggy is the result of a ton of immense and life-changing training. Here I’ll explain a little about the life of a guide dog.
Guide dogs are most commonly brought into the world in the homes of a fantastic group of very dedicated volunteers. Usually, they come from a lineage of guide dogs, but this isn’t completely necessary. The dogs are usually Labradors or Golden Retrievers, but German Shepherds and labradoodles are also quite common choices of breed.
At around 6-8 weeks the whole litter of pups will be taken to the Guide Dog Breeding centre (you can actually go for a tour to see the puppies!). This is just the start of the life of a guide dog!
Passing the test
The puppies get put through their paces at a very early age. This assesses their attributes like temperament and confidence. The results of these early tests are used to determine what roles the pups are destined for! There are a wide range of different types of guide and support dog roles for the dogs to grow into. This is a big step in the life of a guide dog and will determine who they spend the next year with!
Puppy walker and training
For the next year after their first test, the puppies are fostered into the home of a puppy walker volunteer! They get plenty of exercise and world experience whilst learning the first lessons in the life of a guide dog. They learn good behaviour (like not chasing ducks into a pond!) and obedience.
As 14-month-olds, the pups are taken to Training School! They become trainees and spend up to 20 weeks with guide dog trainers learning some of the basic guiding techniques. This is quite a big step in the life of a guide dog. They will be living with a different boarder volunteer, so they experience a good home life after tough training days.
The dogs are soon moved to one of the many ‘mobility centres’ for another 12 weeks of training. This is where they learn the advanced stuff. And by the end of this big school, they are a fully trained guide dog! This is when they can really begin the working life of a guide dog.
Guide dogs aren’t just handed over to a new partner like a new purchase. Their trainer will match them with someone based on things like user needs and temperament of the dog. They will then spend 5 weeks working with the trainer getting user and dog paired.
The life of a guide dog isn’t completely filled with their work. They do get to retire! Typically, guide dog retirement age is around 8 years old. At this point the dogs will then be found their own forever home to live out their days knowing that they have completely changed the life of someone.
In all it can cost up to £55,000 to train and support a guide dog. And some users may have up to 8 guide dogs in their lifetime. It’s not cheap but it is completely worthwhile. A guide dog will give a user their life and independence back.
Village Photography and Guide Dogs
I was lucky enough to have been a volunteer puppy walker and in doing that I met the one and only Zeb. We had him for his first year and it was fantastic though really difficult especially when it came to saying goodbye! Just a week before his 1st birthday he went off to start his school training. Fate brought him back to us 3 weeks later though and we became his forever home. Our Zeb is the reason I raise so much money for the guide dogs association. Read more about Zeb or contact us if you are interested in having a brilliant photoshoot entry and helping to raise money to support Guide Dogs.