Express & Star

Cannock bus company allows guide dog puppies to learn how to use public transport

Future guide dogs have learned how to use a bus thanks to the kindness of a Cannock coach company.

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Helen and Isla

Chaserider, which operates buses in Cannock and Staffordshire, let charity Guide Dogs use a bus for a morning so the animals could learn how to get on and off, without the stress and pressures of doing it in real life.

Familiarising itself with public transport is one of many things a young guide dog has to learn to help a visually impaired person to get around safely. However, meeting a bus for the first time can be quite scary for a puppy.

Puppy development advisor for Guide Dogs, Jess Jarvis, said: "When our puppy raisers are out with their puppies and at bus stations or bus stops, the engine is running, it’s loud, people are waiting to go; it’s not the ideal training scenario’.

"Dan at Chaserider kindly offered to bring a bus down to our puppy class. We could then take our time, approach the bus at the puppy’s pace and make it a really positive experience for everyone."

Guide Dogs’ puppy raisers are volunteers who raise and care for the puppy until it’s around 12 to 16 months old. They train it and get it used to lots of different sounds and smells, and expose it different environments such as cafes, shops and public transport.

The charity offers puppy classes so the volunteers can learn new skills and training, and the sessions are run by puppy development advisors.

Ten puppies attended the special bus class and were split into two groups. The puppy raisers took it in turns approaching the bus while it was stationary and offered food to reward them. When they were ready, they took the dogs onto the bus to familarise them with the inside and took them on a short bus journey around the car park.

Isla, a nine-month old Golden Retriever, is now happy and comfortable using a bus.

Helen Edkins, Isla’s puppy raiser, and said: "Isla is a lovely dog but she is a little bit nervous about buses. We approached a couple of buses but she wasn’t keen at all. But today I am so excited I could cry. She has done really, really well."

Chaserider operations manager Dan Flanagan said: "It’s an excellent cause and something we wanted to support. We see guide dogs on our buses so we it was interesting to see this side of the training. We’re glad it went well and that we could help."