The surprising science behind guide dog puppies – BBC News

these puppies are about seven weeks old and one day they could become guide dogs and while you might think you know where they come from six percent of them have a surprising start to life hi my name is caitlin i'm 16 years old and last year i was partnered with my first guide dog honey she is a retriever black labrador cross and she has changed my life honey has made me more confident independent and allowed me to socialise more but i wanted to find out where dogs like her came from so i'm meeting matthew bottomlet head of breeding operations at the guide dog national breeding centre so this is um our puppy buck caitlyn and this is where all the puppies come in between six and seven weeks of age they come in here and they receive their vaccinations their microchips and they get a vet check as well to make sure they're fit and healthy to travel on to the next stage of their journey most of our puppies will be born out in family homes so they're looked after by a wonderful group of volunteers and being attacked by a puppy as we speak when a stood dog and a mum got together how much of it is natural and how much is artificial we always try to affect a natural mating if we possibly can we believe that's the right way to go and last year our natural meetings we did 94 of our matings were natural matings but if we can't for whatever reason it doesn't nature doesn't play its place hand in the in the right way and we're unable to get a natural mating then we will sometimes use artificial insemination [Music] this is our cryogenic freezer in here we store samples of our stud dogs frozen semen in there they're stored in liquid nitrogen around about minus 190 degrees centigrade and so we can keep that genetic material pretty much indefinitely two reasons for that one it acts as a as an insurance policy for us at guide dogs in case we have some dreaded disease that hits our dog population we have that genetic material preserved and secondly we use it to collaborate with other schools around the world internationally to exchange bloodlines to make sure that our breeding program is as genetically diverse and healthy and vigorous as it can be this is natasha she's a reproduction specialist at the breeding centre [Music] so in here we have many frozen samples from up to 30 years ago and the archive samples are on the bottom row and they're stored in a vapor phase the semen is stored in little tiny straws and all those straws are contained in goblets and the goblets are all stored in shelves and we label each individual straw so that we can always locate the semen from the from the correct stud dog this year there will be about 1 200 puppies at the center they have about 275 breeding and about 90 stud dogs [Music] so how would you decide out of these puppies who'd be a breeding dog common misconception is that the dogs that we add to the breeding program are often failed guide dogs but it's actually quite the reverse we're cherry picking the very very best stock that we can frankly to add to the breeding program what we do is uh look at the family tree the pedigree we look at all the the qualities that the dog themselves has and the dog has in their history and also if they've produced puppies in the past then obviously we look at any success that they've had with that as well most of the pups at the center are pure labrador purebred golden retriever or a cross between the two but they also have german shepherds these are larger a bit quicker and have a greater drive curly coated retriever standard poodles and curly quarters retrievers when crossed with labradors these are more suited to people who are allergic to dog hair why do some of the dogs have nail varnish on them when you have a large litter of puppies and particularly if they're all the same color it can be really hard to distinguish one from the other so just to help us identify them and of course when they're a bit younger as well it's even more difficult we just put a little tiny blob of nail varnish on there either on their shoulder one of the shoulders or on their on their hind legs as well and sometimes under the ear it's really cool to see where the journey of a guide dog starts like some of these little black puppies remind me of honey and it's just really cool to see how they will eventually grow up into working guide dogs you

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