Q: Let's start with the #1 question that our puppy raisers are always asked: Isn't it hard to give the puppies up?
A: The short answer is, of course it is! Puppy raisers do become very attached to their puppies; however, they are comforted with the knowledge that their dogs will go on to enrich people's lives, providing companionship, friendship and comfort, and helping blind people travel safely and confidently as they pursue their goals in life. It is a gift that requires some sacrifice, but teaches a few life lessons along the way; it's not every day that you have such a profound impact on someone's life and can see the immediate effects of your generosity.
Q: Where can a Guide Dog puppy accompany its puppy raiser?
A: A Guide Dog puppy should be exposed to a variety of socialization experiences. Puppy raisers take their pups to malls, grocery stores, school and work, among other places. Many times, the puppy raising group's regularly scheduled meetings will include outings specifically designed for puppy socialization. Leaders also teach the raisers appropriate ways in which to expose the puppies to a wide range of socialization experiences.
Q: What happens to a puppy that does not become a guide?
A: Our dogs that don't graduate as guides can go on to a number of alternative careers within our program. If a dog doesn't qualify for any of our other alternative careers, they become known as "career-change" dogs, and the puppy raiser is given priority to keep the dog as a pet. If the raiser is unable or chooses not to keep the dog, our Dog Placement Department will place them in loving adoptive homes.
Q: What is the timeframe for raising a puppy? How long do raisers keep the dogs?
A: Raisers receive the pups when they are approximately 8 weeks old, and they usually remain in the puppy raiser home until they are between 14 and 18 months old. The length of time may vary, however, depending on the individual puppy's development or our need for dogs.
Q: Is it time-consuming to raise a Guide Dog puppy?
A: Raising a Guide Dog puppy does involve spending time grooming, socializing and caring for the puppy. Puppy raisers are taught ways in which to work ongoing training into a daily schedule.
Q: What are the main responsibilities of Guide Dog puppy raisers? Who teaches the dogs how to guide a person who is blind?
A: Puppy raisers are responsible for teaching puppies good behavior both at home and in public, and what to expect and accept in this busy world. Raisers also rear the pups to be close companions—to trust and be trusted. The raisers' goal is to develop energetic and curious pups into mature, dependable dogs that have the following characteristics:
- Well-behaved: The pups have good house manners and will not relieve in the house. They are quiet and calm, eat only their own food and are not destructive.
- Socialized to the world: The pups have been exposed to a wide variety of people, things and places and accept new situations in a calm manner.
- Well-traveled: The puppies are relaxed and comfortable when traveling in all modes of transportation: cars, buses, trains, airplanes, ferries, etc.
- People-friendly: The pups bond well with people, enjoy receiving verbal praise and are eager to please.
- Animal-friendly: The pups are calm and appropriate around all sorts of animals including other dogs, cats, birds, livestock, etc.
- Responsive: The pups obey basic commands and are cooperative during various training exercises.
The actual training where the dogs learn the specific skills and commands to be Guide Dogs is done on our campuses once the dogs are returned to us by our professional staff of Guide Dog Mobility Instructors. Guidework training takes an average of four months to complete.
Q: Do you need dog training experience to be a Guide Dog puppy raiser?
A: No. It is, however, helpful if you have a pet dog, or have had one in the past.
Q: What if the 12-18 months is too long of a commitment?
A: We also need short-term raisers who will keep a puppy until it is at least 20 weeks old. Short-term raisers housebreak and begin training the puppy before it is placed with another raiser who will finish raising the pup.
Q: Are there meetings to attend with the puppy?
A: Yes. Puppy raising groups meet regularly under the direction of a leader trained by Guide Dogs for the Blind. These informational meetings offer a place to learn about training techniques, meet other raisers and participate in excursions with the puppy. We ask that each puppy raising group meet at least twice a month, but leaders are encouraged to meet weekly with raisers who have puppies younger than 20 weeks of age. The meetings generally last 1-2 hours depending on the activities scheduled. Since Guide Dogs places puppies in raiser homes throughout the Western states, the meeting times and places will vary depending on location.
Q: Do you have to be a member of the 4-H organization to raise a Guide Dog puppy?
A: No; however, raising a Guide Dog puppy is an accredited 4-H project and many of the Guide Dog puppy raising groups are organized under the auspices of the 4-H program. Adult raisers may participate in 4-H raising clubs, but are considered leaders for 4-H registration purposes. There are also many other groups not affiliated with 4-H raising Guide Dog puppies which welcome both youth and adult raisers. For example, many groups have been organized through corporations, churches, service clubs and groups of acquaintance.
Q: What if there are no puppy raising groups in the area?
A: Contact the Canine Community Programs Department at Guide Dogs for the Blind. A member of the staff can provide the requirements and qualifications needed for forming a puppy raising group.
Q: Can a person be gone during the day and still raise a Guide Dog puppy?
A: Yes, as long as there are provisions made to relieve and exercise the puppy during the day. Accepting an older puppy that doesn't have as rigorous a relieving schedule could also be a consideration.
Q: Where does a Guide Dog puppy stay when the raiser is out of town?
A: Raisers in puppy raising groups frequently trade off and supervise each other's puppies when the raisers are away. In some cases, a puppy can accompany the raiser on an out-of-town trip (with a leader’s approval) in order to further the pup's socialization.
Q: Can a raiser have other pets while raising a Guide Dog puppy?
A: Yes. Controlled, supervised interaction between a Guide Dog puppy and other animals is beneficial for the Guide Dog puppy.
Q: Does a Guide Dog puppy require any special foods?
A: Yes. Guide Dogs for the Blind does require that Guide Dog puppies be fed one of several specifically chosen brands of high-quality dry dog food. A Guide Dog puppy should never receive table scraps.
Q: Who pays for a Guide Dog puppy's food and other expenses?
A: Guide Dogs for the Blind supplies leashes, puppy identification jackets, collars and other necessary supplies such as flea and tick medication. Guide Dogs also provides a $250 veterinary care reimbursement. The raiser pays for the puppy's food, toys and incidental equipment such as grooming tools, food bowls and a crate, if needed.
Q: Are the costs of raising a Guide Dog puppy tax deductible?
A: Yes. Guide Dogs for the Blind is a nonprofit charitable organization, and all expenses incurred by the raiser as they relate to raising the puppy (dog food, veterinary bills, gas mileage, etc.) are considered a donation to Guide Dogs. Guide Dogs suggests all puppy raisers consult with a tax advisor to receive the proper IRS requirements for documentation.