Adelle is creeping up on her 14 month birthday which means she will only be staying with us for about 4 more months It’s around this time I start thinking about what lies ahead for us in the future…
Adelle’s future is set. When she turns 18 months she will go to the Prison Pup Program and learn advanced service dog skills. She will spend 4-6 months with prison inmates helping rehabilitate while learning at the same time. After her time in the Prison Pup Program Adelle will move on to Team Training where she will be matched with her new partner and move on to her career as a working dog.
Our future is uncertain. I actually have two questions I will try to answer in the next 4 months:
- When will I raise another puppy (I’ve pretty much decided I already will the question is when)?
- Should I raise another CST puppy? another GDA puppy? or…?
Question #2 is what we’re going to focus on today.
Before I Was A Puppy Raiser
2006 was the year I decided I wanted to be a puppy raiser and the question at that time was which guide or service dog school would best fit my needs as a volunteer puppy raiser? Many of you probably will not have this problem as you may only have one school nearby, but in southern California we were able to research over a half dozen different guide and service dog schools.
Back in 2006 I had an idea of what I thought the ideal school should offer volunteers. While some of the same things are still important to me I’ve come to find that there are many other factors that are imperative to having a good puppy raising experience. After all, you’re committing 18 months of your life to this program! You should find the school that works best for you!
6 Things A Puppy Raiser Should Consider Before Choosing A School
This isn’t an all encompassing post that factors in all things you should consider before choosing a service dog school, but instead I’m brining up some of the more subtle things that I’ve found important to me over the years.
1. What do I do with my puppy when I can’t watch him?
You don’t have to watch your puppy 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but there will be times when you need a short term or a long term puppy sitter to help you with your puppy raising duties. If you want to leave your puppy at home for a short period it’s always a good time to work on crate training.
- Short Term – I consider short term as 1 day sometimes unplanned or loosely planned. This is very important because we’ve had times when we just needed a short break for whatever reason. A few scenarios for me have been going to Disneyland for the day, weddings, parties, and just a little bit of time without your puppy. We’ve found it very helpful to have nearby puppy sitters to help at moments notice to give you a break from puppy raising.
- Long Term – Long term are planned usually something like a vacation or business trip. Most schools can help you with a long term sitter whether it’s a kennel stay or puppy sitters/raisers that can help watch your puppy
The key thing I’m looking for here is an organization that can help me with short term puppy sitters. If I’m going to Disneyland for the day without my puppy I don’t want to have to drive an 2 hours to drop my puppy off at the kennel then drive another 2 hours to pick him up. It’s much easier when you have a puppy sitter that lives 10 minutes from you that can watch your puppy for the day. See what I’m talking about?
Why can’t parents, friends, or family watch your puppy? Most schools want to verify and home check anyone who watches your puppy and quite frankly I would not trust my parents watching one of my service dog puppies in training.
2. Is there a local group?
This is one I didn’t deem important when I first started puppy raising, but today I find imperative to a good puppy raising experience. First of all, let me preface by saying I’m a very independent type of person. I would have been totally satisfied without a support group before I started this journey. However, without the support of our OCGDA group I would probably have only raised 1 puppy then moved on to the next thing on my list.
The friendships and support I’ve received from our OCGDA group is priceless.
- Our group organizes outings that helps new puppy raisers socialize puppies.
- Sharing puppy trials and tribulations. Seeing that others are experiencing the same problems helps to know you’re not alone.
- Guidance from veteran puppy raisers. This helps with puppy training, socialization and teaching good house manners.
3. Is there a puppy raiser manual?
Before you start your puppy raising journey it’s nice to have a manual to help guide you on your journey. This gives you an idea of what you need to teach your puppy and what you should expect along the way. If your school doesn’t give this to you before you get your puppy I’d definitely ask for one so you can get a jump start on your puppy raising career.
4. Are there puppy training classes?
Most people don’t like going to class, but what if it’s Puppy Kindergarten! Puppies are adorable and Puppy Kindergarten is basically a collection of adorable puppies acting like goofy little puppies!
Even if you’ve been raising and training puppies for the past 10 years getting guidance from seasoned trainers helps immensely. Even today I feel like I’m learning something new as well as being reminded of something I forgot.
While it’s nice to attend puppy training classes at your local PetSmart, PetCo, or Community Center nothing beats being able to attend puppy classes specific for guide or service dogs.
Why? Because we often will not learn some of the specific things we should be aware of for working dogs. For instance, some of our guide dog puppy classes have us performing obedience commands blind folded. It’s an entirely different story when you can’t see whether or not your puppy sits on command. You have to take different cues like feeling it in the leash or reaching down with your hand to check or even using your foot to see where your pup is positioned.
5. Are there organized outings?
We mentioned this earlier in the group section, but I wanted to mention it again here. When we first started raising a puppy we weren’t too sure what to expect when walking into a public place like a restaurant, bookstore, or department store. However, going in with a group of puppies on an organized outings helps rookie puppy raisers get used to going out and about with their puppies. It gives rookies a chance to see how a veteran puppy raiser and puppy in training act in public.
Another advantage of organized outings is it allows many puppy raisers do things they may have never done with their puppies. Would you have visited a fire station, road a train, visited a them park, road the bus, visited a festival, gone to the movies, or gone to the horse track with your puppy in training. Maybe some of these things you would have done with your puppy, but some require some serious planning and maybe you would not have gone on a train without your school organizing an outing. Here are some of the outings we planned for our Orange County Guide Dogs of America group.
Remember these are some questions that are most important to ME as a puppy raiser and as I mentioned some I didn’t even realize were important until after I started my puppy raising career. When I first started I assumed I’d raise one puppy then move on to whatever was next on my list. Choosing the right program really started me on the path to becoming a lifetime puppy raiser.
We’ll see what the coming years have in store for me. As of today, I will continue raising puppy #5, Adelle!
I know we’re all different. What do you think are the most important factors a puppy raiser should consider when choosing a guide or service dog school?