Alan Guy, now 60, saw an advert in the Barnsley Chronicle about a Sheffield-based charity who were looking for people to help socialise puppies who would become guide and support dogs. Support Dogs is a charity that helps to provide assistant dogs for people with epilepsy, autism, and other disabilities.
The puppies who will become support dogs usually enter full-time training when they are around one year old, but need to be socialised to be comfortable around people before they can start training.
In January last year, Alan received his first puppy to socialise, 16 week-old labrador-retreiver, Buddy.
“We had to take him everywhere with us,” said Alan, from Brierley. “Wherever we went, Buddy had to come too and because he is training to become a guide dog he was allowed into supermarkets and banks, and the pub.
“He took everything in his stride - we even went in the lift in the market and he wasn’t bothered.”
Alongside teaching him to become comfortable around people, Alan also took Buddy to training classes which taught Buddy the basics like how to sit, stay, and to follow alongside a person.
“He was taught all the basics so that he can build on it when he goes into full-time training. It’s a little bit more regimented than it is when you train your own dog because the skills he learns could be the difference between life and death for someone.”
Alan is now helping to socialise his second puppy, Walter, and Alan wants to urge others to consider socialising a guide dog puppy.
“It’s time-consuming,” said Alan. “You can’t leave the puppies on their own and they need constant supervision but the end result is amazing. They could go on to save someone’s life so I think it’s important to help make sure as many people have access to support dogs as possible.”
Support Dogs is looking for more puppy socialisers. For more information visit www.supportdogs.org.