Fifty years of training Guide Dogs in Forfar

Training at Forfar Guide Dog Centre.
Training at Forfar Guide Dog Centre.

Every single week Guide Dogs’ trainers are seen out and about on the streets of Forfar, busy training dogs in all weathers.

Forfarians are rightly proud of the work which has gone on in the town over the last 50 years, training thousands of dogs to help those who are blind or partially sighted.

Logan Anderson, training school manager with a 38-year career with the organisation, spoke of the gradual change from the original residential training facility at Princess Alexandra House in Dundee Road, to the state-of-the art, purpose built training school at Orchardbank.

With clients coming from Northern Ireland, all over Scotland and the north of England, the emphasis moved away from residential training as the organisations adapted to meet the changing needs of clients.

Logan said: “We tried to make things more focused towards the needs of the client, although there are still facilities for residential if we want them.

“When we took away the need for the residential training, it provided an opportunity to focus on what the dogs, and staff needed.

“It gave us the opportunity to upgrade everything. The kennels are designed to be open plan so the dogs interact with each other. The old kennels were a bit like prison cells.

“We have an observation room where we can mimic conditions of people’s houses; the dogs are also free to go in to family homes as well.”

The new centre - the only training school in Scotland - has an indoor training area as well as an impressive outdoor 
training space.

The puppies are born at the breeding centre in Leamington Spa in the Midlands, (approximately 1400 puppies a year) with 300 coming up to Forfar when they are eight weeks old.

Logan continued: “They are put out to volunteer puppy walkers who do a fantastic job for us.

“We have 342 puppy walkers in Scotland, but we could do with more.”

There are area mobility teams in Hamilton, Edinburgh, Belfast and Newcastle, with Forfar being the hub where the dogs receive their foundation training before being sent to the different teams.

In Forfar there are 21 trainers and although there are fantastic kennels in Forfar, the centre is always on the lookout for boarders who look after the dogs in their own home for anything from two to 10 weeks.

Logan continued: “They keep them overnight, at weekends, and all we ask is that the dog is brought into the training centre in the morning and picked up in the evening.”

The sense of pride among the local community is recognised by Guide Dogs with Logan stating: “I think it is a real coup for Forfar to have a national organisation with the profile of Guide Dogs.”