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Future guide dogs can continue vital training during lockdown, thanks to Stagecoach Midlands

03 Feb 2021

Trainee guide dogs in Leamington Spa have been able to continue their training to become life-changing guides, thanks to support from local bus company Stagecoach.

When the latest lockdown restrictions were announced, sight loss charity Guide Dogs stopped using public transport to train future guide dogs, to help keep staff and the public safe. 

As all trainee guide dogs need to get used to using buses, this meant that some dogs have been unable to progress with their training. 

The Guide Dogs’ team in Leamington Spa put out an appeal to local bus companies and Stagecoach offered the use of their out of service buses at their Leamington Spa depot.

Guide Dog Trainers and future guide dogs are being allowed to train on these empty buses, one person at a time, and with strict hygiene measures in place. 

Graham Kensett, Head of Canine Assisted Services at Guide Dogs for the Midlands, said: “We’re extremely grateful to Stagecoach for allowing us to use their bus depot to train our future guide dogs. 

“Learning to travel on a bus calmly and confidently is an important part of any guide dogs’ training, helping to prepare them for their future role as a life-changing guide. 

“Having access to these empty buses provided by Stagecoach means our trainers and dogs can work in a safe environment and that we can continue to provide our essential services to people with sight loss.” 

Chris Rouse, Operations Manager for Stagecoach services in Leamington said “We care about the community we serve and are delighted to help ensure this vital training continues.

“Guide dogs provide such an important role in helping to transform someone’s life, we jumped at the chance to do our bit to support them”

In line with the latest Government advice, Guide Dogs Midlands Regional Centre based in Leamington Spa remains closed to the public, with only essential staff who cannot work from home using the site. 

A guide dog begins its training at around 12-14 months old and, in normal circumstances, most dogs qualify as working guide dogs by the age of two.