Puppy-raising is a very rewarding experience that involves everyone in the household. Many of our raisers get involved because it is a project that individuals or families can do while meeting other people who also love dogs and want to help others. Learning life lessons, giving to others, and learning about dogs are among the reasons people are drawn to raising a potential guide dog puppy. Whether it is their first or twentieth puppy, raisers can take pride in knowing they have done something special. When the pup returns to Guiding Eyes, it may leave an empty space in your heart, but you have given a part of yourself to help another person.
Should I Become a Puppy Raiser?
The first step is to review the region map and confirm there is a region close to where you live. Completing our pre-placement classes and puppy-sitting will give you a glimpse into what is involved in being a puppy raiser. Below is an overview of your Puppy Raiser responsibilities and our responsibilities to you as we raise a puppy together. You will also want to review our Pup Program Policies and visit our Puppy Raising Frequently Asked Questions to determine whether raising a puppy is right for you. If so, fill out a Puppy Raiser Application so that we can learn a little about you.
There are times when a raiser can’t accomplish every aspect of puppy raising, but could partner with a secondary raiser to share some of the responsibility. Please review our secondary raiser secondary raiser conditions and secondary raiser agreement to see if this may be the right fit for you.
Make the puppy part of your family and teach good social skills and house manners.
Love of Dogs
We can teach you to train a puppy, but we can’t teach you to love dogs! Puppies grow, and it’s important that you feel comfortable around large adult dogs. Dog hair, cleaning up after the puppy, lots of sloppy kisses and other aspects of having a dog around come with the territory. Other dogs and cats in the family will need to be agreeable to having a new dog in the house.
Time and Commitment
Puppy raisers must be willing to devote adequate time to exercise, train, and attend regular puppy classes and evaluations. Puppies require daily instruction and monitoring from raisers as they monitor a pup’s activities and provide teaching lessons and praise for appropriate behavior during daily interactions. Proper house manners (e.g., staying off furniture and counters, ignoring items, etc.) are critical because the dog will eventually live with a visually impaired person. For the first four months, pups must be fed and let out of the crate to eliminate every 3-4 hours.
Is everyone in the family willing to raise a puppy and utilize the Guiding Eyes training methods and philosophy consistently when handling the puppy? Raisers embark on this journey open and willing to raise the pup using Guiding Eyes techniques. Our methods may be different from those they have used to raise their own dogs, but they must be applied consistently, requiring your persistence, patience, and perseverance.
Exposing the Puppy To a Variety of Experiences
One of the most critical contributions you will make is to help a puppy become confident, relaxed, and well-mannered in all settings. Confidence is a major factor in a dog’s success as a guide. In addition, excellent house manners are critical. Raisers provide socialization opportunities, exposing the pup to various noises, animals, stairs, grates, surfaces, people, and objects. Daily socialization experiences should be enjoyable, educational, and appropriate for the pup’s age and personality. Region Teams guide raisers in determining which experiences are appropriate and supportive of the pup’s confidence. Raisers are required to swap puppies with another raiser for a period of 1 to 2 weeks, at least once quarterly, unless otherwise instructed.
All family members will need to accept responsibility for keeping the pup safe, including keeping doors securely shut and harmful items out of reach. All rodenticides must be removed from property. Pups must be kept on leash or in a secure fenced area whenever outdoors and raiser must stay outside with the dog to supervise its activities. If raising a female pup, raisers must take care during an older pup’s heat cycle to avoid contact with intact male dogs. Dog panties can be used to keep house clean. To keep the pup safe, raisers must be able to bend down to puppy height and physically handle an older 60 to 80lb dog on leash.
Classes, Evaluations and Reports
Classes are usually held weekly at first, then progress to every other week as you and the puppy become more skilled. Walk and Talk Evaluations are scheduled periodically with raisers filling out the online form two weeks prior. When the pup comes to Guiding Eyes for its In-For-Training (IFT) test, raisers fill out a Raiser Final Evaluation report. Each time raisers send the puppy to a sitter, or puppy sits for another Guiding Eyes dog, the Puppy Sitter Form is filled out to ensure a smooth transition.
Raising a puppy is a collaborative effort. Much time and effort has been spent on the puppy’s development by staff and other volunteers. Successfully raising a puppy requires working together with your RM, Region Team and other puppy raising volunteers. Being willing and able to work as part of a team and treating all members with mutual respect and kindness are key to the puppy raising experience. Also, being able to communicate by email as needed, and in a timely fashion, is essential.
Coordinating Health Care with our Vet Staff
Veterinary care for the pup will occur at a local veterinarian or at the Guiding Eyes veterinary facilities, as appropriate. Preauthorization is always required for non-routine care, except in the case of a life-threatening emergency.
Being Prepared When Puppy is Ready for Training
Puppies are usually ready to come in for guide dog training between 14 and 18 months of age. Guiding Eyes provides transportation to the Guiding Eyes Training Center if you are not able to deliver the puppy. Occasionally, raisers find that they are unable to continue their puppy raising commitment due to health, family situations, job changes, etc. In such situations, Guiding Eyes will arrange for the pup to go to another raiser to complete the raising process.
We are committed to supporting you in all areas of your puppy raising experience. We will strive to meet your needs, and we welcome suggestions for program improvement. If you have ideas for improvement, let us know!
Choose the right puppy for you
We do our best to get to know you at pre-placement classes, and we use puppy temperament tests to help us match the right pup to your skills and situation. We will provide support and teach you the skills you need to raise a guide dog puppy and work with you to help problem-solve if you need extra guidance. Guiding Eyes is constantly evaluating new techniques to improve the puppy raising process and will provide instruction and guidance on how to use these techniques.
We provide all veterinary care
We will provide you with all vaccinations, heartworm and flea and tick preventatives, and cover all expenses for authorized veterinary care.
Time for training
We assist in arranging for the puppy’s transportation to and from Guiding Eyes. Regional van pickups are used for dog deliveries. Raisers are asked to travel to regional meeting points to drop off and pick up their pups. Raisers living within a two-hour drive of Guiding Eyes are asked to provide transportation to and from Guiding Eyes. We will notify you approximately one month in advance of the dog’s In-For-Training (IFT) date. We will provide regular updates when your dog is in training and let you know of the dog’s progress by sending you training reports periodically.
The pup’s graduation
Guiding Eyes is one of the few schools that provide an opportunity for you to meet the blind recipient of the dog you have raised. You will be invited to a graduation ceremony celebrating the new graduate/guide team and the people who helped to make it possible. If the dog is placed with a blind person through our Home Training Program your RM can arrange for you to visit the dog in the kennel, based on the dog’s availability, prior to placement. During the home training, instructors encourage a future phone meeting between the graduate and the dog’s puppy raiser. After graduation, we respect the individual preferences of our graduates to either maintain or not maintain contact with their dog’s puppy raiser. Either way, you can contact your Regional Manager for an update on how the dog you raised is doing. For details about placement of retired guide dogs, please see policies for retired dogs.