Felixstowe/Ipswich: No cake or cuddles as puppies are working

Puppy walker Penny Parker training a guide dog puppy to get used to the noise and movement of trains

Puppy walker Penny Parker training a guide dog puppy to get used to the noise and movement of trains - at such a moment a cuddle or treat would put the dog off its work. - Credit: Archant

LOOK . . . but don’t touch!

That’s the message today from puppy walkers looking after trainee guide dogs who say the loveable pups are so irresistible that people can’t stop themselves making a fuss of them when they see them out and about

However, the impromptu hugs and cuddles, and gifts of sweets and treats, are proving a distraction to the dogs when they are taking part in training exercises.

Puppy walker Penny Parker, of Felixstowe, said: “I know people don’t mean any harm and it is lovely people love our guide dog puppies. But when they are out they are training and it is vital they don’t get distracted.

“People wouldn’t go up to a police dog or a customs dog and starting patting it or giving it sweets and it’s no different for a guide dog – they are a highly-trained working dog doing a job to help a blind or visually-impaired person and need to give their full concentration to a task.

“We would say please ask before you touch or fuss the puppies, then we can make a decision. Or wait until their harness is off and they are off duty.”

Mrs Parker, who has looked after all the Ipswich Star’s guide dog puppies and is currently carrying out the basic training for the latest, Diamond, said people had not only made a fuss of the puppies but given them treats.

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She said: “I have walked past people at cafes and they are holding out pieces of cake! Having a treat for the wrong reason can give the dogs a wrong message.

“I have been stopped in the middle of a zebra crossing by someone coming across and wanting to pet the dog just at the moment when the puppy is learning how to take a person safely across the road. If they lose concentration it could cause a dangerous situation for their owner.

“Sometimes I have waited a long time for a particular experience to arise for the puppy to experience to see how they react and then a total stranger appears with a biscuit and the moment is lost.”