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Medical alert dogs take advantage of lockdown for equine-related training

An equestrian yard and a diabetic alert dog charity have been able to make the most of lockdown restrictions by using the downtime to socialise puppies around horses.

The specialist charity Hypo Hounds needs to introduce its puppies to as many different environments as possible but had been struggling to find suitable public locations because of Covid.

Social distancing poses a particular problem when training puppies as the dogs need to be free to investigate new environments. The dogs are usually encouraged to use their noses, as in medical environments they use scent to save lives.

Hypo Hounds trains puppies for use by type 1 diabetics, who can have little to no awareness of their blood sugars dropping (hypoglycaemia) or rising too high (hyperglycaemia).

Dogs with a sufficiently sensitive sense of smell are able to detect these blood sugar changes and alter their owners to potentially life-threatening hypo- or hyperglycaemic attacks.

Wyatt Equestrian in Benenden, Kent, offered the charity the chance to come to the yard and train the dogs around horses.

Hypo Hound puppies Simba, Narla and Poppy, aged six months, had a training session with the charity’s head trainer Steve Dean and chief executive Jane Pearman, meeting the horses, who were as curious as the puppies.

Alex Wyatt-Hughes of Wyatt Equestrian said: “I am delighted to have played a minimal part in helping these amazing puppies with their socialisation training.

“With the yard on lockdown it provided the charity with an ideal safe environment to get the puppies used to horses in a controlled manner. Of course the humans socially distanced, but we wanted the animals to do the exact opposite.

“As an essential service it is so important that these amazing puppies get to experience everything they possibly can. They all did so well and I look forward to following their training journey.”

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Head trainer Steve said that the charity had tried to keep training running throughout lockdown “with strict Covid policies” so as not to hinder the puppies’ progress.

“A delay in training would not only cost the charity thousands but also postpone these amazing dogs going to their child clients who are eagerly awaiting their arrival,” he said.

Chief executive and charity founder Jane added: “The needs of our clients haven’t changed and we can’t afford to delay our provision programme. We are thankful to have the support of businesses such as Wyatt equestrian. We all had a lovely afternoon. We look forward to when we can safely take our pups into care settings and hospitals to give everyone some much needed puppy cuddles.”

The puppies are each scheduled to be placed with a child with type-1 diabetes by the autumn and Hypo Hounds is interested to hear from people in various settings who may be able to offer space for socialisation training.

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