Future guide dogs in Sheffield can continue vital training during pandemic, thanks to First Sheffield

Trainee guide dogs in Sheffield have been able to continue their training to become life-changing guides … by jumping on buses.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 1:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 10:44 am

Sight loss charity Guide Dogs stopped using public transport to train future guide dogs in a bid to help keep staff, volunteers and the public safe during lockdown.

As all trainee guide dogs need to get used to bus travel, this meant that some dogs were unable to progress with their training.

The local Guide Dogs team put out an appeal to bus companies asking for support and First Sheffield offered the use of a bus for this training activity to take place.

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Guide Dog Trainers and future guide dogs are being allowed to train on a bus which is presently ‘not required for service’ due to reduced frequencies being in place on some bus routes.

To ensure everyone involved stays as safe as possible whilst the training is undertaken, social distancing and strict hygiene measures are being adhered to at all times.

Janet Champion, Canine Assisted Services Manager at Guide Dogs, said: “We’re extremely grateful to First Sheffield for allowing us to use their out of service buses to train our future guide dogs.

“Learning to travel on a bus calmly and confidently is an important part of a trainee guide dog’s development, helping to prepare the dog for its future role as a life-changing guide.

“Having access to an empty bus, provided by First Sheffield, means our staff and dogs can work in a safe environment and that we can continue to provide our essential services to people with sight loss.”

Nigel Eggleton, Managing Director at First South Yorkshire, said: “It is encouraging to see our city getting back to some normality with businesses and support organisations starting to open their doors and welcoming back customers.

“However, some organisations are still finding it challenging to carry out functions within their training programmes which is why it is important for us to help provide that vital support.

“Guide Dogs provides a valuable service and a key part of that process is the training of their puppies. We have provided a dedicated bus in a safe environment for the activity to take place where the trainers can undertake the various processes and procedures a puppy needs to go through on its journey to become a working guide dog.”

In line with the latest Government advice, Guide Dogs offices across the UK remain closed to the public, with only essential staff, who cannot work from home, using their sites.

A guide dog begins its training at around 12-14 months old and, in normal circumstances, most dogs qualify as working guide dogs by the age of two.