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We’ve been puppy raising for over 9 years now! Almost into the double digits baby!!! During that time we’ve puppy sat a countless number of guide and service dog puppies, raised/trained 4 guide dog puppies, 1 service dog puppy, and we’re currently raising our second service dog puppy in training. Tack on top of that raising our first shelter pup, Linus from puppyhood and fostering another 15 shelter puppies and you got yourself a whole pile-o-puppies!
As puppy raisers it is our job to prepare our puppies to work as service or guide dogs. There are a number of objectives we’d like to achieve with our puppies during their 18 (plus or minus) month stay with us. Here are the main objectives we try to complete as puppy raisers.
The 5 Main Objectives of a Service Dog Puppy Raiser
This is more of a generalization based on our experiences at several different service and guide dogs schools including Guide Dogs of America and Canine Support Teams.
- Obedience Skills – The obedience skills you need to teach your puppy in training will depend on which organization you join. Guide Dogs of America has a list of 9 commands they want your puppy to learn before you return your pup to the school. On the other hand Canine Support Teams has a more extensive list of 30 commands they’d like you to teach your puppy before turn in.
- House manners – This includes many important things including house breaking your puppy, crate training, and good behavior around friends, family, and guests. These are some of the most important skills puppy raisers need to teach their puppies as they will not get much training in “house manners” when in for advanced/formal training at guide/service dog college.
- Relieve on leash on different types of surfaces – This is one of those things many of us regular pet owners take for granted. Enter the story of Linus our first puppy who was rescued from the shelter. He was very easily potty trained and in under 2 weeks time he figured out that he was not supposed to potty in the house and was only to potty on the grass. Great, right? Well, fast forward about six months when I took Linus on his first camping trip. Our camp site had a lot of dirt, but no grass. Guess what? Linus would not pee or poop in the dirt. He seriously did not go potty for a 24 hour stretch and I was about to drive him back down the mountain to find a patch of grass to pee on. Thank goodness he eventually did both #1 and #2 in the dirt, but it was stressful for him and for me. Okay now lets think about guide and service dogs. They go everywhere with their partners and are expected to potty on command in all different places including grass, dirt, rocks, gravel, and even sometimes on the street or sidewalk if there’s not another appropriate area. Needless to say because of the way I trained Linus he would not have made it as a service dog.
- Well socialized with different types of people and dogs – A guide/service dog is not meant to be a guard dog. Puppies in training should learn to be friendly with all types of people and dogs and this requires socialization. Guide Dogs of America (GDA) has training classes specifically for GDA pups, but we also take our pups to other obedience classes outside of GDA (the majority of GDA pups are Labs, Goldens, Lab/Golden cross, and German Shepherds) and so our pups can learn and socialize with other breeds of dog. Some types of people that are important to socialize with are children, elderly, and disabled (wheel chairs, walkers, crutches).
- Exposure to different types of environmental stimulation – This is probably what most of you think about when thinking about guide dog puppy raisers. You’ve probably seen us out and about at restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, baseball games, etc. It’s our job to expose our puppies to different situations they may encounter as working guide dogs.
There are probably more than 5 main objectives for puppy raisers, but that’s what I’ve got off the top of my head. I know some of you guys are puppy raisers as well. Am I missing anything here? What are your main objectives as puppy raisers? Tell me about it in the comment section below.