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People with facial tattoos, piercings and beards wanted to help train guide dogs

People with beards, moustaches, brightly coloured mohawks, facial piercings and tattoos are being urged to come forward to help train future guide dogs.

It comes after research revealed almost two-thirds of dogs have reacted with fear or confusion to attributes they have not been exposed to before.

Sight Loss charity Guide Dogs found up to 1.2 million dogs in the UK have reacted to people's facial hair, including beards and moustaches, while 1.08 million have reacted to people with facial piercings and tattoos.

In addition, 960,000 have shown sensitivity towards hairstyles such as mohawks.

To ensure guide dogs that help people with disabilities are able to copy with the varied world they will encounter, the sight loss charity is sending a particular callout to people with distinctive characteristics.

They also want volunteers to include cyclists, parents and pet dog owners, who are all able to expose a puppy to aspects of daily life like bikes and babies.

At a Guide Dogs socialisation event, nine Labrador-golden retriever crosses and six black Labrador puppies, all eight weeks old, were introduced to people with some of the distinctive characteristics identified.

The puppies enjoyed playtime and cuddles, to create a positive association and prevent future fearfulness.

Guide Dogs head of puppy raising Haley Andrews said: "The goal of any owner is to have a dog who is comfortable and self-assured in all situations, and this can be achieved by giving puppies a strong bank of calm, positive experiences in early life and continuing them into adulthood.

"Rather than expose puppies to everything and everyone all the time, people should focus on bringing dogs into a variety of situations at a comfortable rate and helping them practise a calm, neutral response."

Puppy Raisers prepare a puppy for life as a guide dog, helping them through basic training and socialisation in a caring home for between 12 and 16 months.

The charity covers expenses - including training, food, and vet costs - with volunteers receiving expert guidance throughout.