From Playful Puppy to Proficient Guide Dog: New Toyota Film Captures Early Training for Sponsored Pup Banjo

25 April 2018

Banjo the Labrador Retriever is as a playful as any other puppy, but for this young dog the fun is combined with early training in the behaviour and skills to become a loyal and trusted guide dog. Banjo’s lifetime career is being funded through Toyota’s on-going support for Guide Dogs, the national charity that helps people with sight loss.

Toyota has produced a new short film to show Banjo’s early progress with his puppy walker Fiona.

Fiona has 35 years’ experience as a Guide Dogs volunteer puppy walker. Fiona will look after Banjo in her home for the next year and she will play a vital role in his early socialisation and training. She will introduce Banjo to all the sights and sounds that he’ll experience as a guide dog, and also help him get used to travelling in cars, buses and trains. At the end of puppy walking, Banjo will be ready to enter full guide dog training.

It takes about 20 months to become a fully fledged guide dog, ready to help a new owner live with freedom and confidence

“The dogs live in our home for almost 12 months and they become part of the family,” said Fiona. “When a dog leaves us to go on to train, they will not be phased or worried, or unable to cope with anything.

“You talk to somebody who is living with sight loss and they tell you what a difference their dog has made to their lives. Whether someone is going to college, going to work or looking after their children, a guide dog enables people to live the life they choose.”

It costs £46,600 to breed and train a guide dog. In addition to Banjo’s lifetime funding, Toyota staff are also supporting the training of three other dogs – Genchi, Poppy and Elsie.

As part of Toyota’s busy schedule of fund-raising activities to support the charity, a group of staff at the Surrey headquarters of Toyota GB and Toyota Financial Services formed a choir. After weeks of rehearsals they recently recorded and performed a Song for Guide Dogs.

The group was led by choirmaster Roz McLeod of the Heart and Soul Choir in a rendition of James Taylor’s You’ve Got a Friend in front of an audience of co-workers and representatives of Guide Dogs, including John Hedley with his guide dog Miles, Banjo the Toyota-sponsored puppy, and Iris, another young trainee guide dog.

Through sponsorship and sales of a recording of the song, Toyota staff raised more than £11,000 for the good cause.


Notes to editors:

About Guide Dogs
Almost two million people in the UK are living with sight loss that has a significant impact on their daily lives. Of those, around 180,000 rarely leave their homes alone and lead lonely, isolated lives. Our aim is to help people with sight loss feel part of life. We are best known for achieving this through our world-famous guide dog service, but our work now encompasses much more.

Key facts about our guide dogs:
• Guide Dogs is the largest breeder of guide dogs in the world. In 2016, we bred 1,375 dogs.
• We matched 828 people with a guide dog in 2016.
• By the end of 2016, there were 5,015 active partnerships.
• It takes around 20 months of specialised training to transform a new-born puppy into a confident guide dog.

About Toyota GB’s partnership with Guide Dogs
Toyota (GB) PLC, Toyota Financial Services and their staff have been raising funds for and awareness of Guide Dogs’ work in a national charity partnership established in March 2017. So far they have raised more than £140,000. Guide Dogs has also been provided with an Auris Touring Sports car to use in its work helping people with sight loss across the UK. The partnership will continue into 2019.

Download this release as a PDF below

From Playful Puppy to Proficient Guide Dog: New Toyota Film Captures Early Training for Sponsored Pup Banjo


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