Wanted: 60 Puppy Raisers to help Guide Dogs charity

A dog may be for life, but if it's a Guide Dog puppy it can be for just 12 to 16 months.
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That is the time it takes to help socialise a puppy and prepare it for Guide Dog training.

This year in Lancashire the charity Guide Dogs is seeking to recruit many more Puppy Raisers to take on the vital role of welcoming a puppy into their home. The charity hopes to place 60 Guide Dog puppies to the county if enough volunteers come forward to help raise and socialise the dogs.

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Hannah Laidlaw, the Volunteering Coordinator for the North-West at Guide Dogs, said: "It’s a challenging role, but it’s so much fun too. We get asked a lot if it’s sad giving the dog back – yes it is because you have a special bond together. But that puppy will go on to change someone’s life; your puppy will give someone with sight loss freedom and independence."

Daisy Dutton pictured with FloDaisy Dutton pictured with Flo
Daisy Dutton pictured with Flo

She continued: "It’s a great feeling knowing you have contributed to that. Being a Puppy Raiser is such a rewarding role and you really will be making a huge impact in getting our dogs well on their way to becoming life-changers."

The main responsibility is to raise and care for the puppy, train it and get it used to lots of different sounds and smells and expose it different environments such as cafes, shops and public transport, before the pup graduates to "big school" - the Guide Dog Training Centre.

This is just what Daisy Dutton and her family have done and are doing. The family from Preston first started being puppy raisers during lockdown and Daisy said it has been a joyful and life enhancing experience for the whole family - especially her two children who were entertained by the puppy and in turn entertained the puppy. They are now caring for their second puppy Flo.

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Daisy, 37, said: "It's a big responsibility and it's a lot of commitment. It does take up quite a lot of your time but it's all the things you do day to day."

Daisy Dutton working with "Puppy In Training"  FloDaisy Dutton working with "Puppy In Training"  Flo
Daisy Dutton working with "Puppy In Training" Flo

That means Flo, aged seven and a half months, a golden retriever and labrador cross, joins the school run, has walks round the city and park and goes shopping with Daisy, getting used to all the bustle of city living.. But she knows that if for some reason the family had to go away and Flo could not come Guide Dogs would arrange a temporary "holiday home" for her. Daisy works part time and her husband Lawrence, 39, is self employed and she says this means they can share tasks and care for Flo. She said: "At the moment puppy raising fits into my life...we just get one year with them which is a very special year."

Daisy and family previously cared for a German Shepherd puppy. She counselled that carers need to be prepared for normal puppy behaviour: "They are not born perfect dogs. They have very different personalities."

Meanwhile in Lytham Janette and Paul Brown took up puppy raising on retirement and are currently caring for Clayton, who was one of a litter of 16 puppies. Clayton arrived nearly a month ago and former optometrist Janette, 67, said: " It's very exciting.They all look so cute and cuddly. It's just so rewarding watching them grow ... and learn."

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She continued: "It was something I had wanted to do for a very long time. I was an optician when I was working so I had an understanding of sight loss."

Best feet forward for Daisy and FloBest feet forward for Daisy and Flo
Best feet forward for Daisy and Flo

It was after welcoming a puppy trainer into the reception and testing area of her business, in order to let the puppy get used to a visit to the opticians, that she developed a desire to become a trainer too.

The couple have previously provided a home for three other guide dog puppies - one, who did not quite make the grade for further training, has stayed with them as a much loved pet.

The Guide Dogs charity advises that requirements for puppy raising role include having the time, good communication skills, a suitable home to bring up a puppy and being physically capable of handling a puppy that will grow quite quickly. You do not have to have previous experience of caring for puppies or dogs.

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Expert staff are available to support volunteers through the whole process and the costs of food and vet bills are met by the charity. Puppy raisers will be provided with training and can attend puppy classes.

Daisy and Flo walking in Avenham Park, PrestonDaisy and Flo walking in Avenham Park, Preston
Daisy and Flo walking in Avenham Park, Preston

Guide Dogs is looking for people across the whole county, but in particular have a focus on Preston, the Fylde Coast, Burnley and Blackburn with Darwen and Preston. Details can be found on the Guide Dogs website by typing in your postcode. For more information see www.guidedogs.org.uk

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