On the 4th of February 2015 the Forum welcomed representatives from Guide Dogs for the Blind for a presentation entitled Training Guide Dogs for the Blind.
We welcomed Belinda Hunter and Andrew Dixon accompanied by Eaton and Sam who are both Golden Retriever Labrador crosses and are guide dog puppies in training. Belinda and Andrew are both voluntary guide dog walkers and their function is to take prospective guide dogs into their homes at seven weeks old and provide basic training to the age of 14 months. The dogs then go to a full time training establishment before meeting their blind owners who take over the dogs at two years of age. They stay with their owners for six to eight years before retiring to become family pets.
Around 70% of dogs successfully complete their training, those unsuitable can become hearing dogs for the deaf, help dogs for disabled people or buddy dogs for young people with special needs. Belinda described how dogs are selected for breeding and told us of the histories of the dogs she has had in her care. She demonstrated with Eaton the stage of training that he has reached which involved responding to basic commands and the receipt of lots of treats. Guide Dogs for the Blind is a charity completely funded by donations and two thirds of the dogs are funded by legacies. After a lengthy question and answer session Colin Gaden proposed a vote of thanks and a collection was taken for the charity.