LOCAL VOLUNTEERS are needed to look after puppies before they begin their training to become a guide dog.
UK charity Guide Dogs is looking for volunteers to raise the puppies in their homes for the first year or so of their lives.
They say the Puppy Walking volunteer role is a 24/7 commitment, as it builds a vital foundation before they go on to train as guide dogs and support someone with sight loss. Training and ongoing support is provided by Guide Dogs, who also cover all food and vets bills.
Puppy Training Supervisor, Jo, said: “Volunteering as a Puppy Walker for Guide Dogs is an invaluable first stepping stone to enabling more people who are blind and partially sighted to get out and about in the way they choose.
“Puppies are placed with our volunteers from around seven weeks of age and will need a home until they enter training at 14-16 months of age.”
The charity also holds puppy training classes to begin the learning process before official training begins.
“The classes are a beneficial way to meet fellow volunteers and puppies,” said Jo. “Come along and join in the fun of developing a small puppy on its incredible journey to be a fully qualified guide dog.”
Currently, there are around two million people in the UK living with sight loss, and all experience a different level of vision and mobility.
The charity offers a range of mobility services to help people maintain their independence.
Fran Taylor has been a volunteer Puppy Walker for 14 years and has two pet dogs of her own.
She said: “When my children went away to university I wanted to give something back.
“You do need to have lots of time and patience for puppy walking, but if you work part-time you can bring them to the office so they get used to it.”
Simon Werner – Volunteering Coordinator for Guide Dogs based at their Winnersh team said: “Guide dogs give people with sight loss the confidence to leave their homes and of course they are great companions.
“Puppy Walkers are a key part in the journey of our puppies growing up to become amazing guide dogs.
“We are very keen to hear from anyone who is interested in taking on this vital role. This is a full-time volunteering role so commitment is key and the puppy becomes part of your household for the first year of their life”.
To find out more about puppy walking with Guide Dogs or any other volunteering opportunities, visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/volunteer or call the local team on 0345 143 0224.