Puppy walking and early training

Puppy walking is a crucial volunteering role which prepares guide dog puppies for their working life by familiarising them with different environments including the home, town and public transport.  Volunteer puppy walkers provide the full-time care and education of a puppy from six weeks of age until they are between 12 and 14 months old. There are 4 puppy walking schemes in our team area and each scheme is managed by a Puppy Training Supervisor responsible for the recruitment, training and support of approximately 50 volunteers.  The Puppy Training Supervisors ensure that the required number of volunteers are in place to take our allocation of six week old puppies from our breeding centre.  They also ensure that the agreed number of young dogs of the required standard are ready to progress to the guide dog early training programme.

Early training

After puppy walking, dogs commence their formal guide dog training with a Guide Dog Trainer either locally with the Exeter Mobility Team or at The Guide Dog Training School based in Leamington Spa. The Guide Dog Trainer begins by helping the dog to adjust to the routine of training. Simple walks are given to assess the dog’s abilities, with the focus being on further developing obedience responses and the dog’s ability to concentrate on task. Then the proper training begins with the introduction of the guiding equipment and teaching the specific tasks that make up the guiding role including guiding positon, speed and tension, kerb work, straight line and obstacle avoidance. Trainers may walk many miles each day preparing the dogs for their future work. When the dog is ready, the Guide Dog Trainer passes it on to a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor for its advanced training and matching with a partially sighted or blind client. We currently have 3 Guide Dog Trainers working as part of the Exeter Mobility Team who carry out the early training of dogs locally.