The story so far
In 2018, players of People's Postcode Lottery made history, becoming the first to support the lifetimes of an entire litter of nine life-changing guide dog puppies. Starting with breeding and life with a Puppy Raiser, the puppies then progress through to training, partnering with a person with sight loss, life as a working guide dog and ultimately, a great life in retirement.
Here's the story so far...
In the beginning
On 23 November 2018, a healthy litter of nine future life-changing puppies were born. For the first seven weeks, our amazing volunteer carer looked after all the puppies with their wonderful guide dog mum in their home.
At seven weeks, the puppies moved to our world-class National Breeding Centre, where our canine experts carried out profiling assessments and a range of health checks to ensure our pups had what it takes to progress to the next stage of becoming a guide dog!
The puppies were named Bella, Buddy, Dora, Lottie, Mabel, Nellie, Reggie, Susie and Ziggy as a result of a People's Postcode Lottery employee vote and Twitter competition for players.
After flying through the assessments, the puppies were placed with some of our wonderful volunteer Puppy Raisers to begin the next stage of their journey.
Bowie fans pay tribute by naming puppy Ziggy
David Bowie fans paid tribute to the late star by naming a player-funded puppy Ziggy. Names were shortlisted by the team at People's Postcode Lottery and then a vote was cast on Twitter. A Bowie fanzine boosted the name after retweeting the vote.
People's Postcode Lottery Presenter Danyl Johnson visited Ziggy and the other puppies at the National Breeding Centre. Danyl said, "Ziggy is a fantastic name for a guide dog and it's a great tribute from fans of David Bowie. It was a real privilege to spend the day with all the puppies before they start their incredible journey through training."
At the Puppy Raisers
The puppies each moved to the home of a wonderful volunteer Puppy Raiser and were cared for with expert guidance and support from qualified Puppy Development Advisors (formerly called Puppy Training Supervisors).
Our Puppy Raisers play a vital role in the early socialisation, development and education of our guide dogs. Puppies live as part of the family within the Puppy Raiser's home for at least a year. During this time, puppies are fully cared for and start their early training.
Whilst living with their Puppy Raisers, the puppies were all taught basic obedience, commands and life skills. They attended puppy classes and were socialised and familiarised with different environments, people, transport, sounds and situations.
The puppies celebrated their first birthday with their Puppy Raisers in November, at a party held at People's Postcode Lottery Head Office.
The puppies enjoyed special doggy birthday cake along with lots of fuss and attention from the wonderful People's Postcode Lottery team.
Pupdates from the Puppy Raisers
Our Puppy Raisers gave us regular progress updates and photographs of the puppies while in their care, such as these...
Eager to please with good social skills
Smart, a bit cheeky and keen to please
Good social skills and walks nicely on the lead
Bright and energetic with good social skills
Friendly, good at being handled and very willing
Making good progress in all areas of her training
Calm and gentle but also confident and happy
Bright and friendly. Takes everything in her stride
A joy to be around with great recall and obedience
Learning to be life-changing guides!
Most of the puppies have now moved on to the next exciting and important stage of their journey - formal guide dog training!
And thanks to the support from players of People's Postcode Lottery, we're able to roll-out our new 'Standardised Training for Excellent Partnerships' (STEP) programme to all our training centres.
STEP is a bespoke training programme based on the principles of positive reinforcement training, with tasks being taught in dog-friendly 'steps'. It formalises the change in how our staff, volunteers and guide dog owners train, care for and manage our dogs. The programme has shown to reduce the time required to fully train each dog and enhances the success rates, meaning we have the capacity to deliver more partnerships - ultimately helping more people with sight loss!
Here's how the puppies are getting on in training
A different destiny
Our amazing dogs are extremely special. Guide dog owners need to place their complete trust in their dog's guiding skills - to keep them safe while walking out and about on the streets and crossing roads. Guide dogs must meet the highest standards to qualify.
So, it comes as no surprise that, unfortunately, not all our dogs-in-training make it through to become working guides. Despite ongoing advances in breeding selection and the latest training methods, some dogs are better suited to different roles, or simply being fantastic pets.
Reggie finds his winning home
When Reggie, one of the player-funded puppies, moved into formal guide dog training, it quickly became apparent that he is a dog who likes to express himself vocally - within the training environment and when left alone. Full of character, Reggie was easily distracted when out and about and during training. Also, he wasn't motivated highly by food, toys or verbal praise for any of them to be a strong enough reinforcer for training.
Having been recently rehomed in October, Reggie is now living his best life in Perthshire.
Look out for more updates on the player-funded puppies' progress here!