Guide Dogs Training Centre

 

This post is long overdue as it was following on from the Guide Dogs’ National Breeding Centre photoshoot from last year.

Just up the road from the breeding centre is their main training complex for those who are to become guide dogs as well as other kinds of dogs who end up on the Alternative Working Career assessments – more on that later.

The training centre takes the youngs dogs on shortly after they’ve left the breeding centre and are looked after in homes.

Part of the training process involves getting the dogs used to their surroundings (firstly just taking them for walks on a normal lead). This is Orca who’s already well into her training with Jenny. She’s already getting used to the full harness and learning to navigate around obstacles.

Here, we have a younger dog on a normal lead, getting accustomed to the dos and don’ts of becoming a guide dog.A lot of the training is reward-based and when things start going well, out come the treats 🙂Now we’re indoors where we start training with obstacles. First up is the typical slalom around comes and it’s rather tricky when you’re starting out!Now not all dogs end up being guide dogs for various reasons. One of the principle assessments is done on their character. Dogs who are too lively or energetic can’t become guide dogs and are then assessed into other possibilities such as police dogs and search and rescue dogs.

This is rehoming officer Kirsten working with Benki, a lovely lab just too lively.

Step 1 – “this is what I want you to find”.Step 2 – I’ve found it!On another attempt, this time a bit less obvious. After a few seconds, Benki quickly homes in on the tennis ball.Now we’re back at the early stages of training, and this is adorable puppy Falstaff having a quick checkup with Welfare Advisor, Karen.Part of the process involves a lot of socialising.Give us a kiss!

A quick break from the training to show (off!) gorgeous Curly Coat Retriever puppy Rookie. Curly Coats are an endagered breed and Rookie pulled out all the stops including his tongue for that extra cuteness factor. One day, he may well become a stud dog and I can see why!Back to the training now, and this is Doris being trained by Helen. Part of the process is getting them used to the environment, and they have “environment enrichment activies” to get them familiar with playing, people and their surroundings.After a bit of playing, it was “what? No more playing?”Once the dogs are ready, it’s time to start training them with the full harness. Here, Doris is having one of her first times with the harness. It generally goes very smoothly, especially when treats are involved!Back indoors now with more obstacle training. I didn’t know plumbing waste pipes were used for training guide dogs!As well as guiding, dogs must be taught to stay put when required. Here, they learn to stay on the mat whilst the trainer walks away.Final bit of obstacle training for the day!Here we have another Doris 🙂 She belongs to Senior Puppy Training Supervisor, Helen and as you might expect, she won’t become a guide dog, but I found her too cute to leave out.Towards the end of the training, the dogs are taught to do demonstrations to the public. Getting the public’s awareness is very important in raising money for their efforts.

This is Mark, a Senior Guide Dog Trainer with demonstration dog Dudley.And finally, a few more shots. Peter is a rather proud boarder looking after training dog Austin.As well as labradors, German Shepherds are often used and this is Zip, a stud dog who has sired many guide dog puppies. He is cared for by Mandy.Can I have a treat please?This is a Toby, a retired Guide Dog who’s being cared for at Leamington whilst his medication for Cushing’s disease is being stabilised. Rather proud looking, and so he should be whilst he recovers.Finally, here’s Liam who’s owned by Jackie. You cannot underestimate the joy and happiness Guide Dogs give to the blind, and I can’t quite remember why, but we all had the giggles at this point!I do want to say a big thank you to Lynn for her time and guidance around the Training Centre. After the cuteness of the NBC, it was just as rewarding to see how the training process takes place. I might have to come back and pinch Falstaff for a few weeks, although he will have grown up quite a bit by now!

 

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