My name is Buddy and I’ve been a working Guide Dog since June 2017. This is the story of my first year as a Guide Dog Puppy, when I lived with my Puppy Walker in Wiltshire from the age of 7 weeks to 13 months.
My name was given to me through some really lovely people at a branch of a well-known supermarket who raised money for the Name a Puppy Scheme. In return they got a birth certificate and a picture of me (I would have autographed it if asked), a visit when I reached about 6 months old, as well as personalised updates and photos throughout my first year, until I entered one of the National Training Schools.
I spent my first year living in the home of my volunteer Puppy Walker. Her job was to look after me and teach me basic skills in preparation for Early Stage and then Advanced Stage training with professional Guide Dog Trainers (we call it Big School). I was then matched with my Owner, and have been her Guide Dog since June 2017.
Also in the household were the PW’s husband, henceforth called the PWH, and two guinea pigs. As they weren’t being trained to do anything useful I really couldn’t see the point of them.
Guide Dog Puppies arrive in their PW homes at just 7 weeks old, with absolutely no control over bowel or bladder (this is why we’re so cute, it’s so you can’t be cross with us!). Even for a smart dog like me, house-training takes time, as long as 6 months for some, so patience and a sense of humour are vital PW attributes. Let me tell you, there was a lot of mumbling under the breath by my PW until I got it – I do understand that it wasn’t pleasant for her standing outside in the cold and rain waiting for me to go, or scrubbing carpets when I had those little accidents, but who buys a new living room rug just weeks before the arrival of a puppy?
I don’t know if it’s the same with all puppies, but being a Guide Dog Puppy means that toileting is a major focus of our lives! Seriously folks, the PWs have a full colour poo chart in the training manual! I wanted to include a copy of it here but the PW said no. I suggested I describe it instead, but she vetoed that too. She said someone might be reading this while they were having breakfast, and wouldn’t want to see pictures or read descriptions of poo. It didn’t bother the PWs, though, because there were endless discussions about it when they all got together – and they’d be merrily tucking into cake and biscuits while going into great detail!
I was taught commands almost from my first day with the PW. For instance, to learn ‘Sit’ a treat would be held tantalisingly close to my nose and then slowly raised upwards. As my nose pointed towards the ceiling, my bottom automatically went down to the floor, and then I was given the treat. To earn another treat the PW would hold it in front of my nose and then lower it, pulling it slightly away from me, while saying ‘Down’. When I was in position I would get the treat. The next command would be to ‘Upsit’. Honestly, we have to work hard for our treats – and most of the time it’s only kibble taken from our daily portion!
In the early weeks I had to be carried everywhere as my paws weren’t allowed to touch the ground until I’d had my vaccinations. When I arrived I weighed very little, but within a very short time I was getting rather heavy and I noticed the PW huffing and puffing and complaining about her back. I suggested she do a little stretching, as it helped keep me in good shape.
Every day the PW took me somewhere, even if it was walk in the village or go by car to the nearest town to practise walking on the lead and to get me used to the sound of traffic on main roads. There were plenty of play dates with other Guide Dog Puppies, and we had off-lead walks in the fields. I had to learn to be on my own sometimes as well, but Guide Dog Puppies are never left alone for more than three hours.
Guide Dog Puppies don’t go into kennels, so when the PW went away on holiday, or needed me to be looked after for a few hours or a day, I went to stay with another PW or volunteer Boarder, which was always fun. Now I’m a working dog I get looked after by a volunteer Boarder when my Owner goes away.
I had a wonderful year with the PW, and I’m very grateful for all the love, patience and basic training that set me up for Early Stage and then Advanced Stage training to become a qualified Guide Dog.
Thanks for joining me. I hope you enjoy my blogs as I dip into my personal diaries and relive a few highlights of my journey from Guide Dog Puppy in a blue puppy coat to Guide Dog proudly wearing the white harness.
Information correct at time of Buddy’s training, November 2015-May 2017. Please check the Guide Dogs for the Blind website for up to date information: www.guidedogs.org
Descriptions of pictures:
There are three photos of Buddy, a pale golden LGRx with darker gold ears and large brown eyes.
- 9 weeks old. He’s sitting on a red striped carpet, head slightly down and looking up at the camera. He is holding the Guide Dog Puppy flash of his lead in his mouth.
- 10 weeks old. He’s lying completely stretched out, twisted in the middle so his front legs go to the right of the picture and his back legs go to the left. His speech bubble says: Just doing some pup yoga.
- Head and shoulders shot at 14 months wearing his white harness. He’s standing side-on with his head turned to the camera. His nose is now bright pink!