WATCH: adorable Guide Dogs puppies get used to face masks
With face masks already mandatory on public transport and soon to be mandatory in shops across the UK, it is important to get dogs used to the sight of people with face covering. This is even more essential when it comes to service dogs, such as guide dogs for the visually impaired.
Guide Dogs staff and volunteers are now introducing their puppies to face masks, so that they’re prepared for a future when they may be commonplace.
Janine Dixon, Head of Dog Care and Welfare at the Guide Dogs National Breeding Centre, said, “Working guide dogs have to feel comfortable and happy in a wide variety of environments and be confident meeting all sorts of different people. This ensures they aren’t distracted or worried when guiding, and safely get their owner from place to place.
“It was always fairly standard for us to socialise our puppies while wearing different hats, clothing and uniforms so they got used to these at an early age. Face masks are just a new thing they may encounter in the future that puppies need to learn aren’t scary!”
Staff and volunteers are interacting positively with the pups while wearing different kinds of face masks and coverings, showing them they’re nothing to be concerned about – as shown in the video below by Guide Dogs volunteer brood holder Jane Elkins, from Leamington Spa.
Jane says, “Volunteering to look after Sky and helping bring up future life-changing guide dogs has been a fantastic experience. It was Sky’s first litter, and we wanted to try lots of interesting and exciting games and experiences to give the puppies the best start.
“We would have had different friends and family members visiting the puppies for cuddles and play. But with lockdown, we had to be much more restrictive.”
Jane adds, “Using the face mask during playtime in the garden was a really easy thing to do. It’s likely the pups will be seeing lots of people out and about with face masks on when they start going into shops and on public transport with their puppy walkers. Now I can be confident they won’t take any notice at all, and will focus on learning to be fantastic guide dogs!”
Guide Dogs breeds approximately 1,100 puppies every year to train as life-changing guide dogs. The puppies are born to volunteers, who look after them until they are seven weeks old. The puppies then spend one week at the Guide Dogs National Breeding Centre at Leamington Spa before being given to volunteer puppy walkers.
At approximately 14 months old, the dogs begin their formal training, and at the age of two are each matched with a person with sight loss – forever changing lives.
Images by Guide Dogs