Guide Dogs the story of Julia my sponsored puppy
Julia’s First Update
Julia’s off to a flying start. Look how your sponsorship is helping Julia find her feet
We have just made our first visit to see Julia at home with her new family Severine, Alan, George and Matilda. Julia’s personality hasn’t changed at all - she greeted us in the same friendly way she did when she was a six-week-old puppy. She was very excited to show us her comfy bed by the radiator where she likes to cuddle up with her toy donkey.
Julia is lucky enough to have a playmate who also lives with the family, Ivy. She is also a guide dog puppy but due to be one of our newest guide dog mums. Julia loves playing in the garden with Ivy, especially in the snow. This is the first time Julia has experienced snow, and she loves bounding around in it.
As well as a toy donkey Julia has two real donkey friends who live in the stable at the back of the garden. Most guide dog puppies don’t get a chance to play with donkeys so Julia is very lucky - all good experiences for her!
Julia has been attending puppy classes that are quite far away which is good as it gets her used to car journeys. She has been learning the basic commands like ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ and is picking them up very well. Julia has also been on various days out to get her used to the everyday experiences she will encounter as a guide dog. She has been to shopping centres and into the local town using stairs, lifts and riding the local bus. This exposure is vital for situations Julia may find herself in, in the future when partnered with her Guide Dog owner.
Julia is a very affectionate puppy. She loves to rest her head in someone’s lap and being brushed is her absolute favourite. Severine added, “She is very loyal and loves attention”.
“My first ever big day out”
Julia made the long trip up to Lutterworth with her family to visit some friends. She was very good on the journey there and back, and loved meeting all the new people. Julia is excellent with children and loves playing.
Julia’s Second Update
“Out and about”
Julia’s expanding her horizons. You’re sponsoring a clever puppy!
Julia has been a busy girl since we last caught up with her. Severine, her Puppy Walker, has been taking her to lots of different places to get her used to new and exciting environments.
Julia is in her element when in the hustle and bustle of the town environment, she loves being in busy areas and weaving in and out of the crowds. Julia is very good while out on her lead and really listens to Severine for her commands. Julia has also been on a wide range of transport, including her favourite, the bus! Severine told us, “Julia loves to go on the bus, I think she sees it as a little adventure”.
Severine does lots of collections for Guide Dogs and she always takes Julia along with her. Julia is a real hit with the passers by as she is such an unusual looking dog, “Everyone is interested to know what breed she is. It’s also good for us, as people will donate money for a little Julia stroke”! laughed Severine.
Julia is soon going to stay with her Puppy Walking Supervisor Cath, who will be assessing how Julia behaves in a new home environment. This will help Julia get used to not being with Severine, so that when she moves to the training school, she settles in well, “Julia is a bit of a sensitive soul but I think she will be fine when she moves on in her training”, said Severine. We look forward to finding out how Julia gets on in her next Pupdate!
“My first ever trip to the library”
She might not be able to read, but Julia still enjoyed a recent visit to the library. The silence was temporarily broken by the librarians who were more than keen to make a fuss of her!
Julia’s Third Update
Julia has started school. Julia’s training begins…
We recently caught up with Julia to see how she’s been settling into life at training school. Julia’s been kept very busy by her new trainer Maria, but the pair still managed to find time to update us with their latest news.
Since arriving at training school, Julia has been introduced to many new challenges such as the obstacle course. This involves a lot of concentration, listening to commands and learning to compensate for having someone at her side when navigating the course. “Julia is a bright spark” said Maria, “she’s very intelligent and really happy to learn”.
Julia is currently mastering ‘straight lines’ and ‘kerb approaches’. These skills are essential and help make a successful guide dog. ‘Straight lines’ are when a dog walks in a straight line only moving off line to avoid obstacles, and a ‘kerb approach’ is when a dog approaches a kerb with ease and stops at the relevant point.
Julia has yet to be introduced to the training harness so she is still being worked wearing her lead. The pair make regular trips to the quieter areas of town so that Julia can get used to real life situations such as busy high streets and supermarkets.
“Julia is so bright, willing and enthusiastic and has great social behaviour” said Maria. Julia will soon be heading off to advanced training where she and her new Mobility Instructor will pull together all the skills she needs to be a life changing guide dog for a blind or partially sighted person in the future.
“My new skill re-call”
Maria explained that Julia has a great recall. When Julia is enjoying her free run she has learnt to stop her activity immediately, she then takes direction from Maria and returns back to her before doing anything else. What a star!
Julia's Fourth Update
"Advanced training - Julia’s nearly qualified"
Julia’s training continues. We recently made a trip to Bristol to catch-up with Julia and her Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, Lucy!
Lucy met Julia for the first time at Leamington Guide Dog Training School. Here she watched Julia and her previous trainer, Maria do a ‘pick-up’ walk. A ‘pick-up’ walk is when a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor carefully observes a walk between the puppy and the trainer, they will then know exactly what they need to work on in the puppy’s advanced training programme.
Once Julia arrived in Bristol, Lucy had to get to work right away to ensure Julia settled quickly and absorbed her new surroundings. It’s important that a dog feels relaxed so that they can focus. So far Julia’s training routine has consisted of walks in quiet residential areas so that Julia and Lucy can get to know each other, and so that Julia can learn to respond to Lucy’s voice. Lucy then plans to progress Julia’s training by gradually introducing her to busier environments throughout Bristol City Centre.
“Julia is very affectionate, loving and always willing to please” said Lucy, “If you’re with her on a one-on-one basis she’s very relaxed and calm but when she’s out and about she always wants to know what’s going on and is very alert”. These are two great personality traits for a successful guide dog to have so well done Julia!
My new skill… off road obstacle avoidance!
When there’s an obstacle blocking the pavement and there is no other way around it, Julia’s learnt to guide Lucy safely onto the road to get past the obstacle before quickly returning to the pavement.
While our guide dogs have a very important job to do, they also have a wonderful quality of life. They are independent, intelligent animals, and experience has shown that our dogs enjoy guiding or they simply wouldn’t do it!
Having said that, we always make sure that our puppies in training have time to relax and have fun. In fact, we use interactive toys and play as a key part of the training - it helps stimulate the minds of our youngsters, laying the groundwork for their future skills.
The welfare of our dogs is of paramount importance to us. We provide ongoing support throughout their working life, which means they get the specialist nutrition they need and receive the best health care. We also spend up to three weeks on partnership training, to make sure that we’ve matched the right dog with the right owner.
Coming up next time around, it’s graduation time! Meet Julia’s new owner and find out how their partnership training is going.