This month on the 29th April marks International Guide Dogs Day, a day to celebrate guide dogs and the amazing difference they make to the lives of partially sighted or blind people worldwide. Anyone who knows first-hand, or has had experience of, someone that is helped by a guide dog will know that not only do they work to improve the quality of life of their owner on a daily basis but most become a best friend too, providing valuable companionship and love to what can otherwise feel like an isolated life.
Any dog owners will know how strong the bond we develop with our pets can be, but for people with guide dogs it is this precious relationship that’s at the core of just how they’re able to assist their owners in all different situations. It requires a foundation of complete respect and trust, both physically and emotionally, that can be an awe-inspiring sight to witness. This means that the pairing of dog and owner is so important in terms of both physical and personality traits to ensure the perfect pup to best assist the individual person’s needs. Different breeds of dogs have different characteristics; so more active and energetic types are better suited for more active people whereas placid dogs are well matched with those who enjoy quiet time. After all, guide dogs are still pets too and in between times when they’re assisting their owner they enjoy relaxing, playing and spending quality downtime together.
Every time a blind or partially sighted person steps outside with their guide dog, they are putting their safety in the hands (or paws!) of their furry aid, which is why the extensive training that guide dogs receive from when they are a puppy is so important and key to developing their abilities. Skills that they’re taught from a young age include learning how to deal with traffic and crossing roads, to consistently walking in a straight line in the centre of pavements, and judging height and width to prevent their owner bumping their head or shoulders. We all know how much time and effort can go into teaching our dog even just a basic trick or command, so International Guide Dogs Day is also a chance to celebrate and express our admiration for the people who train these dogs to be able to so competently save lives of those without sight on a regular basis.
Dogs bring us many wonderful things but guide dogs give perhaps the greatest gift of all – reconnecting those without sight with the world again physically and allowing them to lead a life with more freedom. So, this Wednesday, we’d like to encourage you to take some time to appreciate the amazing work these animals do and the impact they have on the lives of so many. You can find out more about guide dogs and the ways in which they help people all over here.
Just as we notice the difference in our mood and wellbeing if we have a lack of simple exercise and fresh air every day, the same goes for your dog too. A lack of sufficient outdoor activity can have a significant impact on dogs’ health and behaviour, leading to various problems, often through boredom and restlessness, such as destructive chewing or digging, over-excitability or rough play and frequent barking or whining. Similar to how young children can be, if our dogs don’t have an outlet for their energy and inquisitive nature then it can manifest in these undesired habits. The good news is that regular exercise, outdoor play and opportunities to explore are easy ways to keep your furry friend active, satisfied, happy and well behaved. Not only that, but this has other benefits too including helping dogs to maintain a healthy weight, ensuring they become tired and not restless in the evenings and also increasing the trust and bond between you both. We know well how our dog lights up at the prospect of going out for a walk, so it’s safe to say such activities really are the highlight of their day – why not make it yours too!
Any quality time spent with your pet is a great bonding opportunity which only increases their admiration and affection towards you; so for this reason outdoor play and exploration which involves you too is important to do regularly, instead of them simply running around outside alone. Structured play, which incorporates some sort of game or rules, is a great way to help exercise your dog and increase your relevance in their eyes through providing direction and authority in a fun and engaging context. As it involves the same leadership and obedience required for training, interactive play together can also help in this respect too.
Don’t underestimate your daily walks together – exercise through running or walking can be both physically and mentally stimulating for your dog. As naturally very curious animals, the various environmental factors allow them to process different sights and smells even on the same familiar route. However, it’s still a good idea to try and change where you go regularly (or even just the direction!) for increased stimulation and enjoyment.
Like the conscious effort we make to keep ourselves healthy and active, it’s vital that we do the same for our dogs too as part of being a responsible owner. There are endless benefits to regular outdoor exercise and play for you both, and making sure to have a daily routine which includes different types where possible is one guaranteed way to leave you with a happy, healthy and content canine.
This year, we’re running a UK nationwide search to find an extra special dog or cat to take the title of our PetSafe® Pet Hero 2015. Perhaps you have a super dog or courageous cat, or simply a pet that’s there for you no matter what; we want to hear your stories and how your furry friend has made a difference to your life.
We’re pleased to say the campaign has now officially been launched and will be rolled out regionally, starting with the North West, running until the end of November this year.* We think such amazing pets deserve to be rewarded, so a huge prize pack including a year’s worth of pet toys and a pet friendly holiday worth £500, courtesy of Sykes Cottages, is up for grabs for the national winner! That’s not all as there’ll also be a £250 goody bag for our four lucky regional winners too.
We want to celebrate pet heroes from all walks of life – from service animals, therapy and assistance pets, to simply a much loved pet that’s brought joy in to your life – there’s no deed too big or small to qualify as a Pet Hero.
To kick-start our search, we discovered the inspirational story of Lucie from Chorley, Lancashire, who was trained by Support Dogs, a national charity dedicated to increasing independence and quality of life for people affected by various disabilities. Her owner Alice’s son Alex was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and getting Lucie has made a real impact to their everyday family life: “Alex and Lucie’s first hour together was simply magical. He engaged with her immediately and deep down I knew something special was taking place. She is more than a dog to us; she is the key to a better life.”
So if you, or a friend or family member, think your pet deserves the chance to be recognised as one of our chosen Pet Heroes then all you have to do is simply send us your pet’s name, along with a photo and brief description of what makes them special to you to: PetSafe® Pet Hero, Hattrick PR 6a Framingham Road, Sale, Cheshire, M33 3SH, Tel: 0161 660 0993. Full details of how to enter can also be found here, along with more of our incredible Pet Hero feature stories.
*The deadline for entries is 20th November 2015 (North West entries 15th May 2015) and the national final will be held on 3rd December 2015.
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