Puppy training for Guide Dogs

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Guide Dogs for the Blind are holding puppy classes in Inverurie after splitting the regular Aberdeen class between the City and Inverurie.

The first of the monthly classes in St Andrew’s Church Hall was held last Friday, with subsequent sessions on the last Friday of every month.

Graham McKinny, puppy walking supervisor for Guide Dogs for the Blind said: “It’s basically to socialise guide dog puppies who we hope will go on to become guide dogs.”

He explained that the puppies, bred at the National breeding centre, are placed with their puppy walkers at six weeks old and are taught basic handling skills before going on to the centre at Forfar for training ‘proper’ and added: “We use dogs and bitches of different breeds such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds, but mostly we use Labs.

“We take them on buses and local transport and take them into Aberdeen and we put them into situations where there is food - they are trained not to scavenge.

“That’s one of the things that can cause the most problems but we encourage people not to feed the dogs treats so that eventually they just look and walk past, then you can take them anywhere.

“Clearly, public image being what it is, when you see a well-behaved guide dog, it reflects well on the charity.”

Pat Grant has walked about 24 puppies to date. She commented: “It’s wonderful to see the confidence a blind person gains when they are accompanied by one of the trained guide dogs.

“You do enjoy the puppies but it is hard work. You get them when they are six to seven weeks old so it’s 24/7, but it is such a worthwhile thing to do.”

Sometimes, when the guide dog is not able to work any more, or if it doesn’t quite make the grade as a guide dog, there is an option to return to the puppy walker. Ann continued: “It is difficult when you see them go away but we have a reject guide dog. We puppy walked him 12 years ago and because he didn’t have enough confidence, he came back to us. He has raised a lot of money for the charity and has trained a lot of puppies.”