Tim Sutton-Woodhouse recently won a Year of the Volunteer Award for his work for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. He volunteers as a puppy socialiser, preparing rescued dogs to live successfully with deaf people
How long have you been a volunteer? I first became a volunteer for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People in 1994 when I used to live near the charity in Buckinghamshire.
I had heard about it and because I like dogs and already have one of my own, I decided to become a volunteer.
What is a puppy socialiser? Unlike Guide Dogs for the Blind, we don't have a breeding programme, so about 80 per cent of our dogs are abandoned pets from animal rescue centres, such as the RSPCA's, and from the Blue Cross.
As a puppy socialiser you might look after a dog for anything from a few weeks to a few months, or even a year. How much training you have to give them will depend on their age and to their background.
They need to be taught basic commands, such as not running away or chasing after cats, because they are working dogs. I use a reward system, but I never punish them. I take them out on the bus and to the shops to try to get them used to the situations they might face. I also take them back to the charity once a month for group training sessions and health checks.
Is it difficult to give the dogs back?
I have introduced one of my friends to puppy socialising and I think we both find that sometimes it can be a bit heart-wrenching to return the dogs, because some of them really do get under your skin. In those situations I like to think that I'm part of a chain and that the puppy I have looked after will go on to transform a deaf person's life.
What else do you do for the charity?
I don't like the begging bowl approach, so I like to give something to people before I ask for money.
I do talks and I used to do presentations with my dog Jess, who was a retired hearing dog for a deaf person. I also organise regular pub quizzes, which help raise awareness as well as funds for the charity.