Edward and Sophie help train guide dog puppies for Big Help Out

The couple participated in training on the coronation weekend

As part of The Big Help Out scheme for the Coronation weekend, The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh visited Guide Dog’s Reading Hub yesterday.

Sophie became the Royal Patron of Guide Dogs in July 2021, taking over from Princess Alexandra. She is also an Ambassador for the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh visited Guide Dogs in Reading as part of the Big Help Out. (Guide Dogs)

The Duke and Duchess arrived at the hub to be greeted by Guide Dogs. Edward and Sophie met future life-changers Hollie, Lucy, Luker, Nyla and Sunny and their volunteer puppy raisers.

For the day, the Centre was turned into a coronation pop-up cafe. It is designed to teach the puppies the skills needed to become guide dogs, including food manners and how to refocus in a busy cafe full of distractions.

The interactive class helped the puppies on their journey to become guide dogs, and activities included participating in a recall session. The Duke and Duchess, as owners of two dogs, put their dog training skills to the test, where they helped to train the dogs.

HRH with one of the guide dogs. (Royal Family)

Prince Edward put his dog training skills to the test. (Guide Dogs)

The UK’s first guide dogs qualified in 1931, and in the 90 years of the charity’s service, they have supported more than 36,000 people by pairing them with a guide dog. It costs £34,600 to breed and train a single guide dog, and £54,800 to support a guide dog from birth to retirement.

During the event, The Duke of Edinburgh spoke about the coronation concert, saying that ‘everybody in the royal box was nervous when Miss Piggy would turn up. There was an empty seat just behind me and we didn’t know who it was for. We suddenly thought it could be her and once we started that rumour, everyone around us was very nervous.’

He added how the concert ‘went very well and even if it was shorter than the last one, I don’t think anyone could have possibly spotted anything that was missing.’

Sophie is Patron of Guide Dogs. (Guide Dogs)

Despite the grey, rainy weather on Saturday, Prince Edward said: ‘It’s the fourth coronation on which it’s rained so it was quite appropriate that we managed to continue that tradition.’

Guide Dogs chairman Jamie Hambro said: ‘We are grateful for The Duchess of Edinburgh and the Duke taking part in today’s session to raise awareness of volunteering and its benefits, and of course for all our volunteers who continue to support us.’

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