This is the moment we’ve been waiting for since launching our campaign to sponsor a guide dog last summer – our Yours puppy is here! Earlier this month, we introduced you to the litter that included our bouncing boy, and now we can exclusively announce which of the lovely puppies is the one we’ll be sponsoring throughout his life – and what he’s called!
When we asked you to come up with a name for our guide dog, we received hundreds of suggestions, so a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who took the time to write in. We could only pick one, though, and that honour went to Julie Lock, who chose the name “Keller”. She explains: “The Irish meaning for Keller is companion, and of course, the deafblind American author Helen Keller was a true inspiration.” Julie also has a personal reason for supporting the charity – her 13-year-old daughter Alex has recently been accepted on to the waiting list for a guide dog.
So what is Keller like? Well, we went to meet him, and are pleased to report he is absolutely adorable! A very relaxed puppy, he is immediately comfortable around people – in fact, it was difficult to get him to run around in his outside play area, he just kept coming back to us! He’s also very inquisitive (he couldn’t get enough of the camera when we were taking snaps!) and adapts well to new situations.
At six weeks old Keller completed a Puppy Profiling Assessment – a unique tool that every puppy goes through to help the Guide Dogs staff get a better sense of their personality traits. This meant that Keller played a series of special games with the Guide Dogs staff to assess his behaviour and progress. For instance, one game involved playing a sound through a CD Player to see how Keller reacted to a new unknown noise, and he was asked to follow the assessor to see if he was starting to pick up on commands.
From this assessment, puppies are grouped as introverts or extroverts. Dogs in each of these groups tend to have common characteristics, and knowing this allows the Guide Dogs team to identify a puppy’s personal needs throughout the selection and training processes. Helen Whiteside, Canine Research Associate for Guide Dogs, says, “It’s about giving each dog the best possible start in life.
It lets us make more informed decisions about the kind of environment the puppy may thrive in, and make recommendations to puppy walkers about what socialisation techniques to try.”We’ve been told Keller is a low level introvert which means he is an easy going chap and an ideal candidate for a first time puppy walker. This is because he is more likely to be flexible and adapt to training easily.
Puppy profiling is a fairly new concept, having being used for just over a year, but it has taken more than 10 years of extensive scientific research by Guide Dogs to develop. The charity initially tried to use the Puppy Aptitude Test used by other organisations to assess working dogs, but this didn’t identify the behaviours needed for guide dogs. Together with Nottingham University, Guide Dogs took on numerous projects to observe the behaviour of thousands of puppies, and analysed the data to devise this brand new assessment.
Helen, who has been heavily involved with the development process, says: “We are still getting information back now from the dogs we first started with, which helps us to widen our knowledge of how behavioural traits affect guide dogs throughout their life.
The more information we have, the better our breeding programme is, and the better welfare we can provide for both the dogs and their owners. This way we can also make sure that we are making the most of every penny we receive.”
The charity requires funding to continue developing groundbreaking programmes such as the Puppy Profiling Assessment. Guide Dogs relies entirely on donations from the public – two out of three guide dogs wouldn’t exist without gifts in Wills. Imagine what a legacy it would be to know the money you had left in your Will was enabling Guide Dogs to keep undertaking amazing research, and provide a better future for their animals and owners.
Keller will soon move in with his puppy walker, where he will live until he is about one year old. We’ll get regular updates on his progress – we can’t wait to hear how he gets on! Remember, though, that Guide Dogs still needs our support to fund Keller’s journey to becoming a fully-trained guide dog – so please keep your donations coming!
To find out more about leaving a gift in your Will, contact Guide Dogs on 0845 603 1477 or visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/giftsinwills
How to help get our pup through training
We still need your help to get our pup through training! If you’d like to make a donation you can do it:
ONLINE: Yours Puppy donation
CALL: 0870 240 6993 (quoting the reference ‘Yours Puppy’)
TEXT: YOURS to 70020 to give £3*
POST: Freepost Plus RTCG-GHHH-YBUG, Yours Puppy, Guide Dogs, Hillfields, Reading Road, Burghfield Common, Reading, RG7 3YG. Make your cheque payable to ‘Guide Dogs’ and write ‘Yours puppy’ on the back (please include your name and address).
*You will be charged £3 plus one message at your standard rate. The appeal will receive 99-100 percent of your donation, depending on your provider. By using this service you agree that Guide Dogs may call you in the future. If you’d rather they didn’t, please text NOTHANKS to 83310, UK mobiles only