Back in May, Lightmaster decided to start sponsoring a Guide Dog puppy named Bolt. We’ve wanted to work with a charity for a long time now and we felt a charity for the blind and partially sighted would be the perfect partnership for us as a lighting company. We chose Guide Dogs for the Blind as they receive no government funding and we liked that we’d be able to see how the puppy we sponsored grew and developed through his training. We picked Bolt because of his name – it was the closest to being lighting related!
Our puppy is now 7 months old and living with his puppy walker Lesley. We love getting our ‘Pup-dates’ about Bolt. The whole team crowds around to look at the photos of him and we like to know how his actual training is coming along.
The guide dog service provides a blind or partially sighted person with a guide dog. These dogs are born in the home of a volunteer brood female dog holder and then move to the home of a volunteer puppy walker when six weeks old. After 12 to 14 months the dogs will move to a specialist trainer, where they train for around 26 weeks to gain skills. This includes three to five weeks of intensive work with their new owner. Every person and dog is unique, so matching a guide dog to an owner is a complex process and trainers have to take into account all a person’s needs, including their walking speed, height, and lifestyle. A guide dog user could have up to eight dogs during their lifetime. After between six and seven years’ service, a guide dog is retired and re-homed.
The most popular breed used globally today is the Labrador Retriever. This breed has a good range of size, is easily kept due to its short coat, is generally healthy and has a gentle but willing temperament. Guide dog breeds are chosen for temperament and trainability. Early on, trainers began to recognize which breeds produced dogs most appropriate for guide work; today, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds are most likely to be chosen by service animals facilities, although other breeds such as Standard Poodles, Collies, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and Vizslas may also be selected.
Crosses such as Golden Retriever/Labrador (which combine the sensitivity of the Golden Retriever and the tolerance of the Labrador Retriever) and Labradoodles (Labrador/Poodles bred to help reduce allergens as all breeds shed but levels vary) are also common.
It costs £56,800 to support a guide dog from birth to retirement. Guide Dogs for the Blind relies entirely on public donations as less than 1% of their income comes from the Government. If you want to sponsor a puppy just visit the website – http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/sponsor-a-puppy/