Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Puppy Raising
Have you ever wondered how roly poly pups grow up to become extraordinary guide, service, and skilled companion dogs that change people’s lives? Well, every working dog starts as a puppy, and every puppy has the potential to open a world of possibilities for those with vision loss, veterans with disabilities, and children who need a best friend. That’s where passionate and dedicated puppy raisers come in.
It all starts with people just like you. And all it takes is love. (And some time, patience, understanding, and playfulness!)
When you take a new puppy into your heart and home, you can generally expect to spend up to a year giving them a good foundation for the future. While they explore your world, they’re learning house manners, socialization, basic cues and skills, and how to make smart decisions.
It’s great fun, but also a serious commitment. So why raise a puppy?
Here are 10 benefits of puppy raising:
- Make a Positive Impact: By raising a future guide or service dog, you’re contributing to a cause that helps individuals with vision loss or disabilities gain greater independence and mobility.
- Help Others: Your efforts directly assist someone in need, changing their life for the better.
- Puppy Love: Spending time with an adorable puppy can bring joy to both you and the puppy! Ever seen a puppy wrestle with a toy or play a game? All the energy and life of a sweet pup does something good for the soul. No bones about it—puppies love to play, and they love to love.
- Learn New Skills: Raising a puppy requires patience, discipline, and training. You’ll acquire valuable dog-training skills that can be applied to other aspects of life.
- Social Development: Puppies need social development, which can lead to a more well-rounded and adaptable dog. There’s socialization for you, too! Use a play session as an opportunity to meet, connect, and learn from other puppy raisers.
- Community Involvement: Puppy raising can help you connect with your local community, as you’ll often be out and about with your furry friend, attend events, and interact with people and other puppies.
- Personal Growth: Caring for a puppy teaches pet owners responsibility, time management, and problem-solving skills. And all those short walks mean more physical exercise!
- Build a Bond: Your bond with your puppy creates trust and reliability for the future. The best way to bond? Play together! Playing is a big part of their training; it helps puppies learn, too. Watching your pup grow and develop provides a unique experience you’ll never forget.
- Raise Awareness: Being a puppy raiser can help raise awareness about the importance of service dogs and the needs of individuals with disabilities.
- Join a Supportive Network: Many puppy-raising organizations have a supportive network of fellow raisers, trainers, and staff who can offer guidance, advice, and camaraderie throughout the process.
Puppy raising requires time, effort, and dedication. While it comes with challenges, the rewards of knowing you’re making a difference in someone’s life can be truly remarkable—not to mention the endless kisses and unconditional love you’ll treasure!
What are you expected to do as a puppy raiser?
- Play, play, play. Play with your puppy! Playtime is vital to their growth and development. Remember, you’re helping to nurture an affectionate, caring, and empathetic future hero. Mentally stimulating play also reduces anxiety and stress, and it reinforces critical thinking.
- Physical and mental exercise are essential to keep the puppy strong and fit for a long and rewarding career alongside their furever person! Puzzle toys are great mental stimulation for dogs; workout sessions in the pool and purposeful and consistent walking help their physical development. Give them a daily routine of physical exercise and thinking activities to build a healthy training regime for your canine companion.
- Teaching and learning. It’s a two-way street. Puppies teach us about empathy, patience, and the importance of clear communication. A dog’s infectious energy and unwavering loyalty inspires us to be better humans! With consistent, positive reinforcement, the puppy also nurtures its innate desire to please its guardian.
- Get out there! Give your dog on age-appropriate socialization opportunities, such as public outings, visits to friends, shopping in stores, and veterinary appointments. Keep the puppy on a leash at all times, unless supervised in a securely fenced area. Be sure to supervise the young puppy throughout the day. Let them have fun!
- Keep it simple. Don’t feel as though you have to be a professional instructor to be a good puppy raiser. Teach your puppy the fundamentals, such as walking on a leash, and basic commands like sit, stay, down, and come.
How do we raise puppies at Southeastern Guide Dogs?
Our volunteers provide the magic in our mission. We value our puppy raisers and give them lots of room to make the program work for their lifestyle.
What’s your magic number?
Puppy raisers can take a puppy home for 3, 6, or 12 months—and love them forever! Flexibility is our special sauce. Every puppy raiser should experience the joy, pride, and satisfaction of this journey with a remarkable canine, whether they care for the pup for a few short months or a whole year.
Choose your own adventure.
The thrill of puppy raising is forever, but the time commitment doesn’t have to be. We believe in balance, which is why you choose your own adventure. Raise a puppy on your own or choose your dream team. Co-raisers share the experience with family, friends, colleagues, and more, because raising pups with big hearts and bright futures isn’t always meant to be done alone.
Take a paws.
Have a getaway planned? Take the vacation, unexpected work trip, or well-deserved break. Our puppy sitters will jump in and take the leash.
Just add love (+ food and water).
You provide dog food and water, and our puppy raiser kit takes care of the rest.
All puppy raisers receive a kit stocked with the necessities to raise a happy, healthy pup. Plus, we cover all veterinary care and medical expenses, including monthly heartworm and parasite preventatives.
Your puppy raiser kit includes:
- Puppy leash and collar
- Stainless steel water bowl
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Branded treat bag and puppy drool towel
- Garden flag and puppy raiser shirt
- One free 5-pound bag of dog food and bag of puppy treats
Frequently Asked Questions:
What breeds do you use for your dogs?
We breed, raise, and train Labradors and a cross between Labs and golden retrievers called a goldador. We’ve chosen these breeds for their intelligence, trainability, temperament, and robust health characteristics.
Can I raise a puppy if I already have dogs?
Yes, you can raise a puppy if you have other animals at home. Our experience tells us that it is best to set this to a limit of two other dogs. We do make exceptions to this policy based on an individual basis. Non-canine pets are also allowed in the home and provide great opportunities for our puppies to learn and grow.
What are the steps of the puppy raiser application process?
The applicant-approval process includes a phone interview, hands-on learning (either in person at a puppy club outing or virtually), and an in-home orientation.
How long does the puppy raiser application process take?
Typically, it takes two to three weeks. The timing varies depending on numerous factors, including an applicant’s prior dog handling experience, schedule, and how quickly the applicant proceeds through the steps.
How much does it cost to raise a puppy?
We will provide almost everything you need to raise a puppy, from the cost of veterinary care and monthly heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives to equipment like a crate, collar, leash, bowls, etc. We do ask our raisers to help support our mission by covering the cost of puppy food. This expense can be up to $500 depending on the length of the raising period.
Will my puppy have the same access rights as a service dog?
State laws accommodate puppies-in-training and allow them to access public locations, but for your place of employment, we ask that you first obtain permission from a supervisor. Some neighborhoods also have deed restrictions, and with larger breeds, apartment rules can have weight or size limitations for pets living in your home.
While puppies in our program do have access rights to go where the general public is allowed, puppies-in-training are not covered by the Fair Housing Act. You will need to ensure that you have permission from your home’s governing body to raise a puppy.
I’ve never had a dog. Could I still raise a Southeastern Guide Dogs puppy?
Yes—we start teaching our volunteer puppy raisers first, before placing a puppy in their home. Click here to learn more.
What are the stages of guide dog and service dog puppy training?
Because of our community of supporters, we operate one of the most advanced training facilities of any service dog organization in the world. It takes two years to raise and train each dog, and we combine art and science to create the healthiest, smartest dogs through our data-driven genetics and reproduction program. We start training our puppies when they are just days old. At eight weeks, the second phase of training begins as we send our puppies home with volunteer puppy raisers to learn basic cues and skills, good manners, and socialization—plus lots of fun with toys and games!
At Canine University, our dogs begin college-level training with certified instructors to learn advanced skills for their future careers. Before they graduate, guide dogs learn over 40 cues and skills, and service dogs learn about 15 to 20. Some dogs enroll in careers in our special programs for veterans and children—because here, every dog makes a difference.
What happens if my puppy doesn’t become a working dog?
Not every dog has the temperament, confidence, and decision-making skills to become a guide dog or a service dog. Because of this, we have several other career opportunities for our dogs. Our trainers and animal behavior experts like to say that each dog “chooses” its career by showing us its preferences and abilities through assessments and training.
Dogs that are not suited for any of our programs may be offered to the puppy raiser for adoption or adopted through our public adoption program.
You mention there is a two personal dog limit, but what about cats and other pets like rabbits, fish, snakes, etc.?
Other pets are allowed! They’re great for our puppies in training to grow up with. Please include this information in your application as well as how many other non-canine pets are in your home.
Can I raise if I am only a part-time resident (snowbird)? Can I raise if I travel extensively?
Yes, and yes! You can become a puppy raiser anywhere in the United States. Depending on your free time or extensive travel schedule, your situation may be ideal for our 3- or 6-month option, co-raising, or puppy sitting.
Can I get academic community service hours for raising a puppy?
Yes, but check with your school guidance counselor as approved activities vary by school district.
And the question you’ve been waiting for: What’s the hardest day with my puppy?
In the process of raising a guide dog puppy, the day you say goodbye and send them off for their advanced training is sure to be bittersweet. It’s a moment filled with mixed emotions, as puppy raisers say farewell to their beloved companions, now a year old or more, knowing that their pups are ready to fulfill their true calling. Most puppy raisers say they can handle the big emotions because they know one important thing is true: they may love their dog, but someone else needs him. They often bid a fond farewell and immediately pick up a new puppy to take home!
Becoming a volunteer puppy raiser not only rounds out the lives of the lucky pups in your care, but it gives you tremendous pride, sense of purpose, and a library of rewarding and fulfilling experiences.
And you’re never alone—you’ll be taught everything you need to know. Puppy raisers receive invaluable tools and support every step of the way!
Are you ready for the next step?
Is it time to begin your puppy raising journey with Southeastern Guide Dogs? If so, fill out this form: