Say “Yes” to the best!
Raising a puppy is an unforgettably positive experience. It requires patience, time, energy, and financial resources. If you aren’t sure, consider becoming a co-raiser with a friend or an experienced raiser, or volunteering as a puppy-sitter.
Answering “yes” to most or all of the items on this checklist will help you know whether you are ready.
Puppy Raiser Checklist:
You must be at least 18 years old to raise a puppy on your own. Older teens often take on the responsibility of raising a puppy as long as a parent or guardian agrees to share the responsibility. An adult over 18 becomes the primary raiser and the older teen becomes the co-raiser. Raising a puppy is an incredible way to gain experience and learn responsibility, as well as earn volunteer hours and extracurricular accolades for college applications.
Southeastern Guide Dogs covers the puppy’s veterinary care expenses; however, our generous puppy raisers support our mission by providing quality food, flea prevention, collar, leash, crate, and approved toys.
Our puppies are born on our Palmetto, Florida campus and you will travel to our campus to pick up the puppy. You’ll also travel to Palmetto when it is time for the puppy to return and begin formal training at Guide Dog University.
Adult guide and service dogs go everywhere with handlers. To prepare for the future, you’ll bring your puppy-in-training with you and not leave puppy home alone except for a few hours at a time in a crate. 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.
If you have other dogs at home that are intact (not spayed or neutered), then you can still raise one of our puppies as long as it is the same sex as your intact dog. We also ask that your intact dog be tested by your veterinarian for a bacterial infection called Brucellosis, which can be passed along to a puppy.
You do not have to have a large home or a big yard to raise a puppy, but your home environment must be safe for the puppy, in good repair, sufficiently dog-proofed, and have an area nearby where the puppy can safely relieve itself, or as we call it, go “busy.”
Puppies begin their home experience at 10 weeks and return to our campus for formal training between 12 – 16 months. If you travel frequently or live in our puppy-raising area for only part of the year (hello, Florida snowbirds!), then your situation may be ideal for co-raising with a full-time local or volunteering as a puppy-sitter.
Puppies start out tiny and cute and then grow up! Our adolescent dogs can grow to 60 – 80 pounds, and actions that are cute for tiny puppies are not so cute as large dogs. (Examples include jumping on people or grabbing toys.) When puppies learn obedience and house manners, bigger dogs are a pleasure to have in the home. The primary puppy raiser must be physically capable of handling a large-breed dog. Also, every member of the household must agree to adhere to our clear puppy raising guidelines and training techniques. It’s a good idea to involve the whole family or household before deciding that everyone is on board and everyone agrees to share the responsibility and follow the protocols.
To raise the best guide and service dogs, our professional trainers and animal behavior experts have defined a strict set of methods, practices, and protocols that we require our puppy raisers to follow. Anyone can learn, regardless of your training experience. Consistency, repetition, and positive reinforcement of our protocols are the hallmarks of our program. We will teach you these training methods through 1) mandatory participation at Puppy Kindergarten (about once a week for about six weeks, depending on your group), then afterwards, attendance at two puppy raiser meetings a month; 2) “Walk and Talk” puppy evaluations and coaching sessions; 3) a comprehensive Puppy Raising Manual, and 4) a growing series of supplemental training videos. These tools and experiences not only teach you how to train your puppy, they teach your puppy confidence through valuable and necessary exposures to the world. The meetings and sessions also enable our Area Coordinators to monitor all of the group puppies’ growth and progress.
Some neighborhood deed restrictions or apartment rules 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.