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Guide Dogs charity issues appeal for volunteers with tattoos and facial hair

Guide Dogs charity issues appeal for volunteers with tattoos and facial hair
Three prospective guide dog puppies enjoy playtime and socialisation (Fabio De Paola/PA)
PA Wire/PA Images - Fabio De Paola

Sight loss charity Guide Dogs has issued an appeal for volunteers with distinctive physical characterists, as research reveals almost two-thirds of dogs have reacted with fear or confusion to attributes they have not been exposed to before.

The charity said up to 1.2 million dogs in the UK have reacted to people’s facial hair, including beards and moustaches, while 1.08 million have reacted to people with facial piercings and tattoos.

In addition, 960,000 have shown sensitivity towards hairstyles such as mohawks, the charity has said.

Guide Dogs campaignAn eight-week-old prospective guide dog puppy enjoys playtime and socialisation with Suki (Fabio De Paola/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Fabio De Paola

In addition to people’s distinctive characteristics, floor cleaning tools like vacuums and mops, bicycles, and buggies also made the list of things puppies should be exposed to from a young age.

Moreover, clothing items such as oversized hats, people in high-visibility vests or jackets, and those in uniforms have also been observed to elicit reactions from dogs, as reported by their owners.

To ensure guide dogs are acclimated to the varied world they will encounter, the sight loss charity is sending a particular callout to people with distinctive characteristics, from beards and brightly coloured mohawks to facial piercings and tattoos.

The charity is looking for all kinds of people to volunteer, including cyclists, parents and pet dog owners, who are all able to expose the puppy to aspects of daily life like bikes and babies.

At a Guide Dogs socialisation event, nine Labrador-golden retriever cross and six black Labrador puppies, all eight weeks old, were introduced to people with some of the distinctive characteristics identified.

Guide Dogs campaignA prospective guide dog puppy enjoys playtime with Keith (Fabio De Paola/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Fabio De Paola

The puppies enjoyed playtime and cuddles to create a positive association and prevent future fearfulness.

Guide Dogs head of puppy raising Haley Andrews has created a puppy socialisation checklist to ideally be completed in the first 16 weeks of puppies’ lives.

The list includes the puppy being introduced to people with beards or in uniform, loud household objects, children, and brought to a cafe or restaurant.

Ms Andrews said: “The goal of any owner is to have a dog who is comfortable and self-assured in all situations, and this can be achieved by giving puppies a strong bank of calm, positive experiences in early life and continuing them into adulthood.

“Rather than expose puppies to everything and everyone all the time, people should focus on bringing dogs into a variety of situations at a comfortable rate and helping them practise a calm, neutral response.”

Guide Dogs campaignProspective guide dogs puppies enjoy playtime and socialisation with Keith, Suki and Ket (Fabio De Paola/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Fabio De Paola

Puppy Raisers prepare a puppy for life as a guide dog, helping them through basic training and socialisation in a caring home for between 12 and 16 months.

The charity covers expenses – including training, food, and vet costs – with volunteers receiving expert guidance throughout.

With the projected increase of the visually impaired population in the UK set to rise to more than four million by 2050, Guide Dogs is seeking volunteers to help raise the next generation of guide dogs.

Facial hair has increased significantly in recent years in Britain, with more than half of men now saying they currently have a beard or moustache, up from 42% in 2016 and 37% in 2011.

Additionally, a quarter of the British public have tattoos, of which one in nine has at least one visible tattoo on their head, face, neck, forearms, wrists or hands.

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