Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Guide Dogs - Quip's First Steps

Looking at this little bundle of fluff, all I can think about is how tiny he is and his beautiful big eyes. However, Quip a Golden Retriever x Labrador is no ordinary puppy. One day, he will hopefully take the big step of becoming someone's eyes. Yes, Quip is training to become a guide dog.

When my uncle, Richard, first told he was puppy walking for the Guide Dog Association, I couldn't contain my excitement. Here was my chance to document the first 14 months of training a guide dog and ultimately give both myself and others a glimpse into the life of this very special puppy.

Born on the 13th February 2014, Quip's litter can all identified because their names begin with the letter 'Q'. One of seven, he was the second puppy to be born and as Richard was told, he was the only noisy one out of the litter.

He came to live with Richard at just six weeks old in order to start his early training. Puppy walking is certainly a lot of commitment, but you can tell both Quip and Richard are really enjoying themselves and they have already become firm friends. During this time, it was also important that he did not go on grass verges or grass in parks because he had not had all of his injections. However, Richard was allowed to carry him around as much as possible so that he could experience the great outdoors.

When I visited them on May 11, Quip was about 12 weeks old and had already grown quite a lot. (What made me smile is that his legs and paws still look that bit too big for his little body and he was having lots of fun investigating me, my mum and dad. Just look at those brindle coloured paws!)

When Richard decided to become a puppy walker, he had to apply to the Guide Dog Association and they would decide if he was suitable to take on such an vital task.

Someone from the Association came to his house and went through the various aspects of puppy walking, as well as assessing the house and car. Here, they stress the fact that this puppy is not yours to keep as ultimately he/she will return to the Association to continue the next stage in their training. In Richard's case, the fact that he had owned dogs before really helped and it wasn't long before Quip came into his life.

Quip is such a clever puppy and he has already learnt such a lot considering his age. He can sit and wait, sit, lay down and Richard can tell him to wait, walk away and then call him over. To make sure he doesn't jump up at him when he is called, Richard gets Quip to come round him and then sit on his left hand side. As a rule guide dogs only work on the left and never on the right.

Once a fortnight Richard takes him to a meeting, which all the puppy walkers attend with their puppies. Here they teach the youngsters a number of different commands such as sit, come, leave and walk them on the lead. To test the puppies, hula hoops are placed on the floor and they have to walk over to see if they are relaxed. This is an important part of their training because the puppies must be correctly socialised. They must also be able to walk straight at another dog and pass them with no problems.

In addition, someone from the Association will come round Richard's house and check that Quip is the right weight, is happy and is learning everything correctly. Another important part is to say "busy" when they are going to the toilet. This is so when the the puppies are older, they will go to the toilet on command.

Richard has also taken Quip to Leigh Station so that he can experience getting into the lift and stand on the platform. He is not allowed to take Quip up to the platform when a train is going straight through the station, but Quip took all of this in his stride.

Quip and Richard's story will continue next month, but for more information about Guide Dogs, visit:

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