Guide Dogs call on volunteers in and around St Albans

PUBLISHED: 19:00 10 August 2010

Guide Dog puppy

Guide Dog puppy

Archant

VOLUNTEERS are needed to take care of guide dog puppies in the year before they start their specialised training and the older dogs who are nearly ready to embark on their new life with a blind person.

Guide Dogs, which has a centre in Frogmore, is looking for local people to become puppy walkers which involves taking on the full-time care and education of the dogs from six weeks of age until they are around one year old.

The young dogs will spend much of their first year living with the puppy walker volunteer in their home, where they will learn basic obedience and get used to a home environment, noise and the bustle of towns.

Puppy walking supervisor for Hertfordshire, Ali Firbank, said: “A young guide dog puppy is a full-time companion for its temporary owners, who find it so rewarding to raise a dog who will one day give a blind person a new independence by acting as their eyes.

“They prepare the pup for their working life ahead which includes taking them on public transport including, trains and buses and we supply training, basic equipment and cover veterinary and feeding expenses.”

Volunteer Frances Miller, who is currently looking after a pup called Reo, said: “It is a challenge, but such a rewarding one. I’ve had such a great time since joining Guide Dogs – there was a lot to learn, particularly when the pup is very young, but that’s part of the challenge and wonderful to see them grow. When you meet a Guide Dog owner who had benefited from our work it is really humbling.”

To become a puppy walker, volunteers will need to have access to a car, be based at home most of the day and their yard or garden will also need to be securely fenced so that the puppy remains safely within its confines.

There are also opportunities for local people to become volunteer boarders and look after older dogs on their specialised training for up to 12 weeks at a time.

The dogs, which will be in the final stages of training before being matched with a visually-impaired person, spend their weekdays training with Guide Dogs and the evenings and weekends with the volunteer boarders on a ‘bed and breakfast’ basis.

The office in Frogmore is calling for individuals or families to take on the role so that the dogs don’t have to stay in kennels and can instead get used to a home environment before they go on to become a full-fledged guide dog.

Potential volunteers need to be willing to follow vital training advice to help the dogs and will need to take them to the Frogmore office each weekday morning between 8am and 9am and collect them each evening between 5pm and 6pm.

A secure garden with a concrete area or an area of hard standing is also required and Guide Dogs supply all food, equipment and veterinary care.

If you would like to request more information about volunteering for the charity as a puppy walker, boarder or fundraiser, call Guide Dogs on 0845 371 7771, email volunteer@guidedogs.org.uk or visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/volunteering

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