A Q&A for the Curious Puppy Raiser

The job of a Guiding Eyes puppy raiser is an important one. Our raisers voluntarily open their hearts and homes to a puppy for many months, building a close bond with them and teaching them critical skills needed for future guide work. And nearly 70 percent of our puppy raisers are repeat raisers – which we are extremely proud of!

If you are considering becoming a puppy raiser, see below for some of the most commonly asked questions to get you started:

I want to raise a Guiding Eyes puppy! What training do I have to go through beforehand?

No prior experience is required! But a love of dogs is a must. You will, however, first need to confirm that there is a puppy raising region close to where you live by checking out our region map. We also recommend reviewing the responsibilities required in raising a Guiding Eyes puppy so you can determine whether it matches your time, commitment, and interests.  Before getting a Guiding Eyes puppy, each raiser attends a six-hour Pre-Placement Class to help determine if puppy raising is right for you and to introduce you to our protocols and training methods.How old will the puppy be when they first arrive and how long will they stay with me?Most Guiding Eyes puppies are around eight to nine weeks old when they go to their puppy raiser’s home. A raiser then spends anywhere from 12 to 16 months providing the pup with love, socialization, and basic obedience training before bringing them to Guiding Eyes for guide dog training.Can I name the puppy I am raising for Guiding Eyes?Our puppies are already given names when they are born, but occasionally a dog can be “special named” with a donation through our Special Name Program.How often do I have to attend puppy classes with a Guiding Eyes puppy?Puppy classes are held weekly at first, and then progress to every two weeks as the pup gets older. These fun and informative classes will help guide you in teaching the puppy the essential skills needed to become a future guide dog.How much time a day will I spend training the puppy?A puppy raiser provides hours of looking after, caring for, and laying the foundation for training a dog every day. Raisers should be able to devote adequate time to exercise and train the pup before or after work, as well as attend weekly puppy classes during the evenings and weekends. Raisers will also need to closely monitor the dog when they are home with them and take the pup out for socialization opportunities at least five times a week.What do puppy raisers have to pay for?  Do raisers have to pay for vet expenses?Guiding Eyes will provide medications and vaccinations and cover all vet expenses for authorized veterinary care.  We also provides some supplies like collars, crates, and puppy jackets for raisers, but raisers are responsible for food, food rewards, and dog toys.How much does it cost Guiding Eyes to train and support one Guide Dog team?  Does a person have to pay to receive a guide dog from you?Guiding Eyes is able to fulfill our mission of providing exceptional dogs to people with vision loss every day thanks to our donors. One guide dog team costs approximately $50,000 to breed, raise, train, match, and support over the lifetime of the team’s work together. All of our services are provided free of charge to people who are blind and visually impaired and are made possible through the support of individuals, corporations, foundations, and organizations.

Interested in helping out? Check out the many ways to get involved with our organization.I have a dog/cat of my own! Can I still raise a Guiding Eyes puppy? What if I don’t have a fenced in yard?Yes! Having other animals in your home is fine and can actually be quite helpful. Your pet does need to be accepting of a new puppy in the household, though. Guiding Eyes puppies are also raised as house dogs, so there is no requirement to have a fenced in yard. The puppy will, however, need access to outside areas for play, exercise, and using the bathroom.What happens if the puppy does not become a guide dog?  Do we get to adopt the one that we raised?If the puppy does not become a guide dog, there are several “alternative careers” they may pursue. We want all dogs to go into the career that’s right for them. They go on to work in law enforcement, as service dogs, therapy dogs, or become cherished family pets. A puppy raiser may have the option to adopt the dog they raised if they meet the eligible criteria and agree to certain conditions.Is it hard when your puppy goes back to Guiding Eyes for training?For long-time puppy raisers Eileen and Terry Matro, who are now raising their 30th Guiding Eyes puppy, it’s never easy, but it’s always worth it.Puppy raisers Terry and Eileen Matro sit with Guiding Eyes puppy Misty“Every dog is hard to return; it’s always hard to say goodbye. But the main reason we continue raising them is the overall end result. You know the dog is going to end up with someone who is visually impaired and make their life better. You realize just how much the dog is going to do for that person. That’s why we continue to raise Guiding Eyes puppies, and why we feel others should do it, too.”How does raising a puppy change someone’s life?“We have made so many close relationships with the graduates who now have the dogs we’ve raised. I recently spoke with the woman who has our last pup, Beau – we also raised his father – and she was telling me that she’s done things in the last few months with him that she hadn’t done in years. When you hear stories like that, it’s gratifying to know that you’re doing something to help others.” — Volunteer puppy raisers, Terry and Eileen Matro Ready to get started? Visit our puppy raising page for more information and to submit an application.