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Puppies are carefully selected using specially developed aptitude tests, which help to identify potential assistance dogs. Essential qualities include a gentle, co-operative nature, curiosity, a strong desire to be with people and a steady temperament. Most of our puppies are from the retriever-type breeds. Labradors, Golden Retriever, Flatcoats, GSD or, in many cases, crosses between these breeds. We also select some crosses between Poodles, Labradors or Retrievers, in case a Partner has allergies or uses respiratory equipment.
We have also trained rescue puppies to become assistance dogs, such as David and canine partner Zack. We have to pay for the majority of our puppies (approx £650) and get a few kindly donated, with plans to increase the training success rate and cut costs by breeding an increased number of our own puppies.
The puppies are cared for by volunteer "Puppy Parents" from the age of eight weeks to about fourteen months. By attending weekly training classes at one of our thirteen Puppy Training Satellites nationwide, Puppy Parents learn how to socialise puppies to every environment an assistance dog might work in, such as busy streets, shops, hospitals, supermarkets and workplaces.
Our dogs receive a huge amount of praise, love and affection throughout the training programme, and are trained using the most up-to-date positive motivational training methods. All our dogs have the opportunity to play, relax and "just be dogs" and they lead full and rewarding lives with their Partners, who provide them with the best possible care. We oversee the well-being of all our dogs throughout their entire working lives and ensure they enjoy a happy retirement, when that time comes.