Did You Know? A Day in the Life of a Puppy Raiser
To step into a day in the life of a puppy raiser, first you have to realize that no two puppies—or puppy raisers—are alike. Puppy raisers are retirees and working professionals, college students and high school teachers, stay-at-home soccer moms and busy executives. Each day is different, depending on who you are and how you live.
But puppy raisers do have a lot in common, and it all revolves around raising a puppy wearing a very special coat that says, “Southeastern Guide Dogs puppy-in-training.”
Our puppy raisers receive training before they take their first puppy home. They’ve attended puppy raiser meetings to learn the ropes. They’ve read our Puppy Raiser Manual, a comprehensive guide to special rules and protocols. And they’ve agreed to comply with the rules, knowing that the rewards are great for a puppy that gains confidence in its socialization and behavior skills. Anyone who has ever experienced a dog begging for food knows that it only takes one time to teach a bad habit, so puppy raisers are keen on developing and keeping good habits in these pups.
We spoke with two-time puppy raiser Caellan Curtis about her puppy-raising days, and she shared many insights. “It’s almost like having a child,” she says. “You take the puppy with you everywhere, and wherever you go, you have to give yourself about 15 extra minutes. You never leave the puppy alone in the crate for more than a short time. If you do need a puppy sitter, you ask someone who has been approved by Southeastern Guide Dogs—someone who knows the rules and commands.”
Each day before leaving the house for an extended period, puppy raisers pack the equivalent of a mom’s diaper bag. Heading to work each day, Caellan packed the puppy’s coat, treats, clean-up bags, water, a bowl to hold the water, toys (depending on the age of the puppy), and if she was going to be out past dinner time, the puppy’s food. Raisers have to plan their day to allow for plenty of outside breaks for puppy to expend their energy and do their business.
Our puppies “earn” their coats by demonstrating good behavior in social situations and wear their coats while out in public. Puppies-in-training have the same access rights as service dogs, so when puppy raisers grocery shop or go to a restaurant, puppies come along to practice good behavior. Because puppies are so darn cute and rather unexpected in public places, puppy raisers are prepared to spend time answering people’s questions.
“Not only are you raising the puppy, you’re being an ambassador for the organization,” says Caellan. “Everyone stops and asks you about your puppy, so sharing the mission and the story of Southeastern Guide Dogs is something puppy raisers might do every day.”
At home on their own schedule, raisers spend each day practicing commands and obedience, focusing on learning a new skill and reinforcing commands they already know. Twice a month, raisers attend puppy raiser meetings and excursions, where together with other raisers, puppies gain new exposures and skills. Puppies and raisers travel in groups to expose the dogs to situations that their future handlers might experience, such as riding a bus, traveling on elevators, visiting farm animals, or going on a boat ride.
A day in the life of a puppy raiser is always filled with a few more things: lots of puppy hugs, tail wags, and smiles!