Today Guide Dogs is the world’s largest breeder and trainer of working dogs. Their recently opened new National Breeding Centre, in Bishops Tachbrook, Warwickshire provides facilities to enhance dog, staff, and volunteer welfare, and has room for large groups of visitors with specially built walkways to allow viewing of puppies without disturbing them or the staff.
Open days are held where visitors can meet some of the breeding stock, hear about the latest technology and innovations in the breeding programme and see the journey a dog takes from six week old puppy to becoming a trained and qualified guide dog.
[private] When a bitch comes into season she will be brought into the breeding centre by her volunteer ‘carer” for mating. An appropriate stud dog that matches the qualities of the brood bitch will be chosen. At approximately 4-5 weeks post mating, the bitches are checked for pregnancy using an ultrasound scanner and to determine the number of pups expected. The average litter size is 7.2.
Bitches are mated once a year and normally have a maximum of 4 litters. The pups stay with their mother in the home of their volunteer ‘carer’ until they are at least 6 weeks old and then they are brought back to the National Breeding Centre for their health checks, vaccinations and micro chipping, before going off to live with their new puppy walking families.
Stud dogs are always over 18 months of age and retire no later than nine years of age.
Guide Dogs have reciprocal arrangements with other Guide Dog schools all over the world to bring in fresh bloodlines and ensure genetic diversi-ty, either in the form of livestock or frozen semen. Here in Yorkshire, we currently have some working guide dogs that were bred in Norway – recognisable by the thickness of their coats to cope with the cold winters.
The Guide Dog service commits to providing a guide dog for life and a guide dog owner may have up to eight dogs in their lifetime. It costs around £50,000 to breed, train and support a guide dog throughout its working life. You could help by joining the Dogs Unite event at Castle Howard or Bolton Abbey on 14/21st September.
For more details go to www.dogsunite.org.uk or www.facebook.com/dogsunite
To book a tour of the National Breeding Centre please email
NBCvisitors@guidedogs.org.uk or phone 0845 3727 432.[/private]