The Guide Dogs story started in 1931 when two British pioneers, Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond organised the training of the first four British guide dogs from a garage in Wallasey, Merseyside.
Since then, Guide Dogs has become the world’s largest breeder and trainer of working dogs, and has helped over 29,000 people to achieve life-changing independence.
[private]There are over 4,700 guide dog owners in the UK, with 197 of those here in West and North Yorkshire. There are 39 people in Yorkshire on the waiting list. More than 1,300 pups are bred each year in a national breeding centre near Leamington Spa with Labradors, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds being the most common pure breeds, although other breeds such as Curly Coated Retrievers are also bred, and matched for example, to people with fur allergies.
The pups start their lives in the home of a Brood Bitch Holder (a volunteer who looks after guide dog ‘mums’) before going on to live with a volunteer puppy walker for a year. In Yorkshire today there are 72 puppies living with puppy walkers, and during that first year they will be exposed to as many different day to day environments as possible. At just over a year old the pups leave to go to guide dog school to start six months of specialist training before being matched with a visually impaired person.
There are four main training schools across the UK, the nearest one to Yorkshire being at Atherton near Manchester, but some local area training is done, and in Leeds last year 24 dogs were trained at the Mobility Centre in Headingley.
Some pups do not make the grade and are either re-homed or become a different type of assistance dog such as a police sniffer dog or a therapy dog. Typical reasons which make a pup unsuitable for a working life as a guide dog include anxiety around other animals or people, easily distracted or health conditions.
Guide dogs usually retire around 10 years old and often remain with their owner, even when they get a new dog, or are re-homed, sometimes with family or friends who have been associated with the dog throughout its life.
The Guide dog service does not receive any government funding and is genuinely life changing. If you would like to know more about Guide Dogs, go to