The Early Training & Socialization Program is a crucial program that helps the puppies get the right start on the long path to becoming guide dogs. As guides, they will need to exhibit confidence, resilience, and a strong bond to the human half of the guide dog team. These traits can be enhanced, beginning in the first weeks of life, with massage, early training, auditory stimulation, and opportunities to explore and discover the world around them. Volunteers in the Early Training & Socialization Program provide much-needed stimuli in two separate stages, depending upon the age of the pups. The first stage, referred to as the “Pre-K” program, involves working both individually and with the full litter of one to six week old puppies, at first in the kennel, and as they mature, in a specially equipped room. Volunteers may be assigned to massage our neonate pups only, or can be involved in a wide range of socialization and training of the puppies as they develop simple, yet important, skills.

The “Kindergarten” Socialization program works with six to nine week old puppies, developing more advanced skills and providing in-depth socialization experiences. This is an incredible time of learning and growing for our pups, and we need reliable, loving, and committed volunteers to help the pups reach their potential and master complex relationship-based training concepts in a fun and joyful way.

Volunteers do not need to have prior skills in training or massage. Guiding Eyes provides volunteers with six hours of training in three sessions: Orientation and Overview, Hands-On Training, and Mentoring with an experienced socializer. The lessons you share with the pups are easy to teach and highly rewarding for both you and the pups.


Requirements of an Early Socialization Volunteer:

  • Be able to travel to the Canine Development Center in Patterson
  • Successfully complete Early Socialization training
  • Be able to physically interact with (including kneeling or squatting, bending over) and clean up after small puppies
  • Be able to clean the room with a sanitizing solution after completing the socialization experience
  • Commit to a minimum of two hours per week on a consistent and reliable basis.

We’re sorry, but our Early Soc applicants currently outnumber our open positions and we cannot accept new applications. We thank you for your interest and hope you’ll keep checking back with us. Thank you for your patience. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What does an early socializer do?

An Early Socializer works with our puppies introducing them to new environments and experiences on a daily basis. These repeated positive new experiences help build the puppies’ confidence.

How old are the puppies I will be working with at the center?

Volunteers work with puppies between 1 week and 9 weeks of age on-site at our Canine Development Center in Patterson, NY.

How much time is needed to become a volunteer early socializer?

Volunteers commit to socializing for a 2 hour period, once a week.  Early Socializers will have several training sessions before working on their own with the puppies. The training sessions may be held on days that are not your normal volunteer day.

Will I be trained before I begin socializing?

Yes, you will be trained in massage and socializing techniques before you begin working with the puppies.

Can my kids participate?

Due to the training requirements and the commitment involved, this program is limited to those 18 years of age or older.

How can I apply to become an early socializer?

You can apply to become an Early Socializer by completing the application online or downloading a copy for mailing.

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