Reviews Sundry

Guide Dogs Centre

At the beginning of this month I had the opportunity to visit the Guide Dogs Centre. I did not go there as a blogger, so I did not have to talk about it, but how could I miss the chance of sharing pictures and details about this amazing charity? First of all, this is their website if you want to see more about them or if you can help.

Guide Dogs

Guide dogs is a charity with 16,000 employees and 17,000 volunteers. They do not get any government funding, but manage to raise £50 to £60 millions each year. They breed and train hundreds of dogs as guide dogs each year, helping so many people live a better life.

We had a 2 hours tour. It started with a short presentation of the charity, followed by a short presentation of their breeding programme. Guide dogs breed their own dogs. The females and males are kept in homes by volunteers, similar to pets. After a maximum of three births, all females are retired, neutered, and re-homed. If a female has a problem with a birth, then she will no longer be used for breeding, for her safety and well being.
I was not surprised by this, as Festus’ breeder and all responsible breeders have similar views when it comes to the number of births. Their breeding centre is in Birmingham and that can be visited too. I will visit it when I have the opportunity, that’s for sure.

Also, their dogs are trained for 2 years. They will work for 6 to 8 years, depending on the lifestyle of the person who they help. For example, as London is more stressful, the dog is retired at 8 instead of the usual 10. They are re-homed with members of the family of the beneficiary, volunteers, or, ultimately with members of the public, after vetting.

After these presentations, in which many more interesting things were mentioned, we went to see their indoor training area and we saw the dogs being trained.

 Guided walk

After that, the dogs left. One was brought so we could meet her. Also, we could try the walk, with a blindfold, guided by the trainers, feeling as a blind person would.

When I was studying at University for my first degree (Psychology), I used to walk with my eyes closed at home, in an attempt to understand how blind people feel their environment. I thought this will not be hard for me. Well, I was so wrong. Unlike a place I know, walking without seeing anything, not even realizing the direction I’m going and if I might bump into other people or stuff, despite constant reassurances from the person who guide me was incredibly moving.

My husband tried it too and he said similar things. If you visit a guide dogs centre, please try the walk, it will feel so strange.

Me on a guided walk

At that point in the walk, I had no idea I was there. She told me we are going back and I knew that were obstacles there, but I couldn’t figure out where I was. Also, hearing people talking scared me a little, thinking I will hit them, not knowing how close they are.

Outside the Guide dogs centre, looking at the dogs

We went out to see the grounds of the centre. Some dogs were outside and we were able to pet them. All of them were so cute.

Cars

These cars are used to get the dogs out for training and on longer walks, for recreation.

Obstacle area

The Obstacle area is really well designed. The dogs learn how to take decisions when they play, which will help them do their job.

Play area

This is the play area. It is just as big as the obstacle area, but without any obstacles. The dogs, being Labradors were having a great time running around with a toy. They were hilarious.

Car park

Car park, not something you might think is part of a tour, would you? Well, this car park is different because the surfaces are different, so the dogs can be accustomed with different kinds of surfaces to walk on.
The wall in the back has a story too. The company which built the houses said they are disturbed by the noise the dogs make. It was shocking for everybody in the tour when we heard that. These dogs improve the lives of hundreds of people and their families, so a bit of noise is to expected when they are in training; besides the dog centre was there before they built the houses.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures and the story. If you can, buy something from their online shop or leave a small donation. The cost of a dog is over £56,000 per year and they ask 50p from the beneficiary for the dog. This way is not means tested at all. Some beneficiaries can donate more, if they have the means, but that is irrelevant for them. When they are re-homed, the charity asks for £150 to £350 for the dog, as I said, after vetting (including home checks). I will make sure I buy a pen if I see them at a fair (bought 4 pens on the visit, besides a couple more things), or I will pop a couple of coins in their donation box.

8 Comment

  1. My daughter recent years had helped by Guide Dog. Without their help, my daughter would not be able to use her computer (subsidise mostly by them and we had to pay the rest) to learn touch typing. We are going to look for guide dog when she is a bit older. I am glad to learn about this tour and would definitely visit them when we are ready. Also I am in process to be their volunteer.

    1. I’m very sorry to hear that your daughter has problems, but it’s amazing she will get help if she needs it. Well done for volunteering. x

  2. This is fascinating and I’d love to tour that. A friend once fostered a guide dog. He flunked out when returned (he was a puppy when he came to them) and they were able to get him back as their pet. A wonderful dog. It’s amazing the procedures they do and the training. I’ve done the eyes-closed thing. It really is remarkable how lost we are. That said, my friends Nino and Marie are both blind, both cycle (back end of the tandem, though!) and can write legibly (if not artistically) and are the most self-sufficient people I know — without a dog. We often say they put us to shame.

    1. Your friends sound amazing. It’s remarkable what people can adapt to, and actually have a good life despite the impediments. It’s heart-warming to hear stories like this. Thanks for sharing. x

  3. What a wonderful post, so thanks for sharing about your visit! It appears they’re mostly Labs, with the exception of a few Golden Retrievers. I love the vans with the dog picture on the side. 🙂

    One of my bookclub members is blind and I’m always fascinated how well she navigates. (she just uses a cane)
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    1. Most are Labs or Lab-crosses, but they also have German Shepherds, They have the right size and the temperament to a guide dog. I can’t wait to visit the breeding centre.

  4. This is an incredible visit! I never knew you could visit centres like this. It must have been very emotional indeed, to see all the work put in place by these amazing people and dogs. It really makes you realise how important this training is, and that we should support it to make blind people’s lives easier. Thank you for sharing so much info here. 🙂

    Julia x
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    1. Only recently I found out that these centres are open to the public on special days. If you have the opportunity, do visit one, it is so interesting to find out about the dogs and what they do.

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