Guide Dogs for the Blind Community Challenge

Guide Dogs for the Blind Community Challenge 2019

Westcotes Flooring Company have been approached by Willmott Dixon to get involved with their Midlands LCO challenge for 2019. This is to help “Guide dogs for the blind” to improve training facilities at their Leamington Spa Centre which involved supplying and installing a Tarkett resilient vinyl to the renovation of a garage building to make it suitable for general training dogs. This was all done free of charge thanks to charitable donations form our supply chain partners Bostik ( Preparation Material Manufacturer ) Tarkett ( Vinyl Manufacturer ) and Heckmondwike ( Matting Manufacturer ) to help deliver this worthwhile scheme.

The Leamington training school is one of four training schools across the country and currently train about 220 dogs at the site each year. The site consists of a kennel block that can house up to 100 dogs at a time, as well as the main house where our administration staff work from. Most of the dogs on site are our ‘early’ training dogs who come into us from their puppy walkers at about 14 months of age. There they will be introduced to the harness and begin to learn the basic tasks of guiding such as leading in a straight line, stopping at ground level changes (such as kerbs and steps) and avoiding obstacles. Early training usually takes about 12 weeks and during this time most of our dogs are housed in the kennels during the day and then go to volunteer boarders overnight and weekends. Some dogs on our site may also be at their next stage of training which is called ‘advanced’ training where they are taught further guiding task such as traffic training, where they learn to stop for moving cars. At the end of advanced training they will be matched with a client who then completes ‘class’ with their dogs. this is a period of intense training together to make sure they match works well before the dog and client partnership can qualify together. At present they are rolling out their new positive reinforcement method of training and handling dogs which provides a more successful, ethical and positive way of teaching the dogs their tasks.

The space that our materials will be used for is known at present as the ‘garage’. It is a basically a large open space with a concrete floor and shutter doors. At present it is used to house their sensory tunnel (a tunnel that allows you to walk through many different sounds and textures as a visually impaired person would sense them) and the area is therefore used a lot for visits where people can experience this tunnel. They also use it for blindfold demonstrations using the dogs, as well as a general area to train the dogs indoors. However, the ‘garage’ is not a very pleasant environment and not particularly fit for purpose. However the new space will be a multipurpose area. It should allow them to train the dogs indoors in a much more appealing environment and a much safer space for both people and dogs. It will be used for visitors, training staff and will also be able to utilise the area in future for the improved welfare of the dogs.

Westcotes Flooring are proud to be involved in such a worthwhile cause … keep an eye out for the completion pictures in our future blogs!