Baltic Training Support Guide Dogs for The Blind
Written on: 10 February 2017
Written by: Amanda McCombie
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Baltic Training love to give back and this February we are supporting Guide Dogs for The Blind.
The charity is currently responsible for over 8,000 guide dogs throughout the country. This includes over 4,800 dogs currently working with their owners, the 1,300 puppies bread last year who are with their “puppy walkers” of first family’s until they are old enough to begin their training at 14months, the dogs currently on their training, and not forgetting the old timers who have retired and are now enjoying a well-deserved break. Guide dogs are usually retired when aged between 9 and 10, and can either be adopted by the family they have worked with, by other family members, or by members of the public wanting to give one of these a heroic dogs a forever home. Guide Dogs support their dogs from birth, right up until they retire, this includes veterinary care and even providing food, equipment and toys, meaning anybody who needs it, can gain access to the support of a dog, regardless of their financial situation.
The very first guide dogs were trained in 1931 by two British women, Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond in Wallasey, Merseyside. Today, Guide Dogs is the world's largest breeder and trainer of working dogs. This has only been made possible by the staff, volunteers and the donations they receive. In total, since the charity started, Guide Dogs has helped over 29,000 people achieve life-changing independence.
The journey from puppy to hero.
It all starts when a puppy is born at the National Breeding Centre in Warwickshire. Over 1,300 puppies are born here each year and they stay with their mothers and siblings until they turn 8 weeks old. When they turn 8 weeks, they then move into their first family home, these families are referred to as “Puppy walkers” and remain with them for 1 year until the pup turns 14 months old and is ready to begin their training. ITV’s This Morning currently have a lovely resident labradoodle named Luna preparing for her training, so if you tune in you might spot her!
This first year is crucial for the puppy’s progression into a guide dog, as the pup will experience everything they will encounter when working with their future owner. From going to the shops, on the bus, even on a plane, the puppy needs to experience as much as they can, in order for them to become the best possible guide for their owner.
When they turn 14 months, they back their bags and head off to school at one of the four training centres ran by the charity. A professional guide dog trainer will introduce the puppy to their training harness. It’s also this time when they start learning guiding skills such as dealing with kerbs and avoiding obstacles.
After three months of initial training it is time for the specialist training to begin, and at 17 months, the Guide Dog Mobility Instructor will start to pull the puppy’s training together, so that it learns to use guiding skills in everyday situations. They will also start the matching process, finding a blind or partially sighted person who’s just right for the puppy.
The matching process is taken very seriously, as the dog and the potential owner need to be the right fit. Depending on the type of experiences the dog is used to, location (is it used to a busy city environment or a quiet village?) and the personality traits shown by the dog, these factors are crucial when determining who the dog is matched with.
Once the dog has been matched with an owner, Guide Dogs continues to support the pair right up until the dog’s retirement after an average of 7 years of service.
Why are Baltic getting involved?
As you can imagine, this costs a lot of money. Guide Dogs for The Blind receives no government funding so relies entirely on donations, so we wanted to do what we can and do our bit.
Recently we had the pleasure of welcoming a puppy walker named John and his lovely retired guide dog Bonny into our offices and he spoke to us about the charity, the training and explained more about the funding, and why it is so important.
On average it costs £5 per day per dog, and with 8000 dogs currently under the care of Guide Dogs, that’s £40,000 per day. This equates to £14,600,000 per year all from donations, fundraising and legacy contributions.
This is an incredible amount of money, but it pales in significance when compared to how much good they do, and how my much this can impact people’s lives for the better. We are all about changing lives here at Baltic training.
After a full day of fundraising, including a bake sale and a raffle, we are proud to announce that Baltic have raised £207.11. Well done everybody!
For more information of the Guide Dogs for The Blind please visit their website by clicking here.
*All stats and figures taken from www.guidedogs.com