Raise a Puppy
Training an exceptional guide dog begins before a puppy is even born. Our intentional breeding program means our puppies come from parents who are known for their intelligence, loving personality, and trainability. Newborn puppies are tickled and stretched as part of our early socialization program. Before they’re weaned, young puppies are exposed to sights, sounds, textures, and plenty of puppy-hugging volunteers. House training starts early to make the next step in their training that much more enjoyable for everyone. What is the next step?
Home to our puppy raisers!
Puppy raisers are volunteer families who agree to welcome a future guide dog into their home. These homes are where our young puppies’ training and socialization takes an important turn; it is here that they become comfortable with home life, learn basic obedience, and begin to experience the world. Puppy raisers take our puppies everywhere—to work, out to eat, on trips, and even grocery shopping. This real-world training imitates the experiences that our dogs need to successfully guide a visually impaired person wherever they want to go.
The puppy-raising experience requires a great deal of commitment, time, energy, and focus. It’s an unforgettable and rewarding experience, and most puppy raisers choose to participate again and again. One of the hardest parts of the program is saying goodbye; at 14 to 20 months the puppies return to “school” for formal harness training. But on the day when puppy raisers return to campus to visit their old friend and meet its new owner—one of our visually impaired students—the incredible emotional reward comes full circle.
If you are interested in becoming a puppy raiser, read our frequently asked questions below, take our online self-assessment and submit your application. If you need further information prior to submitting an application, contact Leslie Shepard at 941.729.5665 ext. 112.
How do I apply to become a Puppy Raiser?
Take our online self-assessment quiz to see if puppy raising is right for you at this time. If the time is right, you can start the process by completing our secure online application to start your journey. Those who have raised in the past two years may use our Repeat Puppy Raiser Application.
Puppy Raisers: Frequently Asked Questions
Find the answers to your questions here.