Guide Dogs NBC

Following on from covering Guide Dogs‘ summer Fun Day in Reading, I was privileged to have a view behind the scenes at the Guide Dogs National Breeding Centre just south of Leamington.

It’s the first time I had the opportunity to see what happens, and I left the day feeling rather emotional and immensely inspired by the work, dedication and love people have.

Before describing briefly their fantastic facilities, I first have to warn you that a lot of cuteness follows 🙂

We started the morning at the Puppy Reception area. This is where volunteers take on puppies and bring them back for their training. Each puppy has their own pack containing all their information as well as their food.

Here’s a shot from the back of their dedicated vans which carry them around.

Next up, weaning!

Never before have I adored so much mess! I think they’re still struggling to see so it invariably ends up being rather messy.


Here are the little pups – I think they’re two days old. Still no opened eyes, still grabbing for mum’s milk. What an exhausting start to life.

Now we’ve moved on a bit. They’re now learning socialising skills, being around people, playing, etc.


It’s still a tiring life being a pup!


The classic game between pups (and adults alike!) I wonder if it’s a particular Labrador thing as I’ve seen it most (and photographed it most) amongst black Labs.

Here’s Abby, Lucy and Molly from a couple of years ago


Back at the NBC, all those mouths to feed mean a lot of bowls to maintain and clean.


Now we’re in the indoor socialising room. It’s filled with dog toys and children’s toys such as play washing machines and vacuum cleaners. This is so they can get accustomed to your typical household noises early on in life. Of course, the majority of it is spent playing.


And this leads on to the breeding. Below is Alfie (please forgive me if I’ve misspelt his name). He’s the dad of quite a few hundred pups and is a bit of a celebrity stud in the dog world!


A collection of the various harnesses worn when working.


Here’s John’s dog, Eddie, a Labrador – German Shephard cross. John guided me around the NBC and it was lovely to see his connection with Eddie both whilst working and when having a rest. Here’s Eddie waiting to have a play. With all the work, the dogs do need time to unwind and let off steam, and it was fascinating to see how disciplined Eddie is when working with his harness on and how he appreciates the down time playing with John when “on leave”. Apologies for not using a technical term if there is one.

Overall, I left the NBC with two very strong thoughts: how well the NBC is (it’s the biggest dog breeding and training centre in the world) and how professional and caring the team, whether staff of volunteers really are. But above all, their dedication and love is really something special and I couldn’t help but feel inspired by what I saw. It’s not just the affection and bond that builds between the dogs and their owners but also realising what a life changer they are to visually impaired people. The Guide Dogs puppy vans humourously say “Life changer on board”. Although one might think it’s a little tongue-in-cheek, it’s certainly how I felt at the end of the day. The benefit, relief and joy they bring is plain to see (pun respectfully intended) to both volunteers and the visually impaired.

Next week, I’ll be covering their Training Centre – I can’t wait!

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