Disco dogs put through their paces

Guide dogs for the Blind puppy training. Trainer Nicola Morgan
Guide dogs for the Blind puppy training. Trainer Nicola Morgan

It could have been canine carnage on the dance-floor - but the class of playful pups who strutted their stuff at a Brighouse studio had all the right moves.

A litter of guide dog puppies in training visited the party and dance studio in Upper Bonegate (no pun intended)for special classes to prepare them for their valuable work.

Guide dogs for the Blind puppy training.Helen Austwick with fourteen week old Quaver.

Guide dogs for the Blind puppy training.Helen Austwick with fourteen week old Quaver.

Because it has mirrors all round the room, the studio is an ideal location to get the puppies used to seeing their own reflections.

Jan Booth, of Laugh Love Parties, who is a guide dog puppy walker herself, offered the use of the premises as a new training venue.

Puppy training supervisor Nicola Morgan said: “We have to put the puppies through all sorts of different scenarios during their initial training to get them used to the many different situations and obstacles that they may encounter as a guide dog.

“Mirrors can often be a distraction for a puppy and so the studio is ideal for them to get used to seeing their own reflection, and not reacting to it.

Guide dogs for the Blind puppy training. Eight-week-old Sprint.

Guide dogs for the Blind puppy training. Eight-week-old Sprint.

“We are always looking for new and different venues for our puppy training classes and we are very grateful to Laugh Love Parties for allowing us to use their venue as a training venue.”

Jan said: “Normally on Fridays the only dogs in the studio are the hot dogs we serve up to the youngsters who come to our discos!

“It seemed ideal that we should offer the studio as a way of getting the puppies used to mirrors. The only catering on offer was a bowl of water to keep them cool.”

Margaret Backhouse, media assistant for guide dogs for the Blind, said getting puppies used to different situations was an important part of their training.

“Recently we took some of our puppies to Leeds-Bradford airport to help them get accustomed to being in a busy, crowded place with all the noise and bustle.

“The duty free hall, for example, had a shiny black marble floor which completely spooked some of them.

“It was a chance to get them used to escalators, walkways, trolleys and lots of echoing noise. I think the passengers waiting in the airport were quite taken aback to see a group of guide dog puppies there - but it was a big success and we will be repeating the training after the holiday season.”

There are currently around 4,700 guide dogs in the UK, paired up with blind or visually impaired people. Around 1,000 puppies are taken on each year for training, most of them Labrador/retriever crosses of German Shepherds.

Margaret said: “The puppies stay with their walkers for about a year where they learn to live with people, get used to noises such as the fridge and the Hoover and so on.

“Then they are kennelled at special centres for proper training.

“Not all the puppies make it through. Sometimes they do not have quite the right temperament, sometimes they are too giddy. We even had to reject one dog because he slobbered too much!”

But puppies who do not make it through as guide dogs often go on to help deaf people as hearing dogs or the Police as sniffer dogs.

“Being a puppy walker is hard work but very rewarding,” said Margaret. “Some of our walkers have been doing it for years - and some even take on two at a time.”

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association was founded as a charity in 1934 and provides independence and freedom to thousands of blind and partially-sighted people in the UK.