Puppy raisers stepped up in honor of National Puppy Day: Here's how

Crufts 2024 - Day One
Crufts 2024 - Day One / Christopher Furlong/GettyImages

What better way to honor National Puppy Day on March 23 than opening your home and heart to a pup destined to become a hero? At Guiding Eyes for the Blind, there’s never been a greater need for volunteer puppy raisers to help nurture future guide dogs.

Puppy raisers play a crucial role in preparing Guiding Eyes’ puppies for a lifetime of service. Watching a pup grow into an experienced seeing-eye dog is as rewarding as it is impactful.

Change someone’s life by being the first stop on a puppy’s journey toward becoming a successful guide dog. Here’s everything you need to know about becoming a puppy raiser in New York. 

Why Become a Puppy Raiser at Guiding Eyes for the Blind?

A shortage of guide dogs and supportive volunteers to help raise them has caused long wait times for people with vision disabilities worldwide. Across the United Kingdom, some people wait six months to five years before getting approved for canine assistance.

The shortage is just as prevalent in the United States. In March 2023, Guiding Eyes for the Blind reported a decline in the number of puppy raisers, from 450 volunteers before the pandemic to 414 currently.

The trend is likely due to people returning to the office or traveling after global lockdowns were lifted. Yet, few realize they can bring the future guide dogs to most places — Guiding Eyes issues “Service Dog In Training” vests, granting them accessibility to commercial buildings and businesses.

According to NYC puppy raiser Monika Conrad, volunteers for Guiding Eyes often say, “Raise a puppy, change a life.” This is because seeing-eye dogs are life-altering for those with vision loss. For example, Guiding Eyes canine companion Ken has helped Barbara Bielinski settle into her new Colorado community by participating in outdoor recreation with no out-of-pocket expense. Ken — a black labrador retriever — is a running guide.

Of course, Bielinski is only one of many people who have benefited from Guiding Eyes’ dogs — and it all starts with the loving volunteers who raise them. Interestingly enough, Conrad has a medical condition with the potential to cause vision loss. “If I were ever to need a guide dog one day, I know I have given back and helped individuals who may be just like me.”

What Does a Puppy Raiser Do?

Caring for a puppy is a considerable undertaking, whether bringing them home as a family pet or raising them for Guiding Eyes. However, the latter sets the puppy up for greatness as a loyal seeing-eye guide. Here’s how prospective puppy raisers in New York can embrace raising the organization’s pups in honor of National Puppy Day.

1. Shower the Puppy With Love

The first criterion you must meet as Guiding Eyes’ puppy raiser is to shower the pooch with plenty of puppy love. Volunteers take the dogs for 14-16 months before returning them to Guiding Eyes so they can enter the program.

A dog is easier to train and more eager to please when it is well-bonded to you. This increases its learning potential when it undergoes formal training to become a guide dog.

2. Devote Your Time

Raising a Guiding Eyes puppy requires much time and commitment to offer training, physical activity and care. You’ll need to be able to foster good behaviors and housebreak it so it’s ready to live with someone with vision loss.

Guiding Eyes has its own methods puppy raisers must follow to prepare the pups for proper training. Even if you’ve used different techniques with your pets, you must be willing to adhere to Guiding Eyes’ rules. Conrad points out the many enjoyable moments of raising a puppy. “Each puppy is different, and you learn so much from their unique personalities. Sometimes just learning a new skill is a joyful moment when it was hard for them to grasp.”

Likewise, it is crucial the puppy receives the proper vaccines and medical attention while living with a puppy raiser. The animal parasiticide market increased by 5.7% over five years by 2020 due to greater awareness of and interest in animal health.

If you don’t have the patience or time to devote to a puppy around the clock, you might consider becoming one of the organization’s puppy sitters instead.

3. Let Them Explore

Among the more fulfilling responsibilities of a puppy raiser is providing a safe space for the dog to explore the world and socialize with people and other animals. Taking them to parks or stores allows them to interact with different age groups. While the puppies may eventually become guide dogs, “the main goal is for you and them to have fun learning,” says Conrad.

Bringing the puppy into a home with another dog is also beneficial for socialization. Living in a house with another dog is five times more effective for better canine health than financial support. However, your family dog must be comfortable welcoming a puppy into the home.

4. Help Them Grow

Guiding Eyes requires New York-based puppy raisers to attend regular training classes with the puppy. Initially, you’ll have to bring the puppy to weekly sessions at a Guiding Eyes center, which eventually becomes bi-weekly. 

The puppy will also meet one-on-one with an evaluator to monitor its progress. The evaluator gives you areas of improvement you can work on at home. When you return the puppy to Guiding Eyes, you’ll be asked to write a final report about the dog’s personality and learning abilities.

Conrad has helped raise two puppies for Guiding Eyes — however, her proudest moment was watching her second puppy, Treasure, graduate and become a certified guide dog. After devoting much of her time to socializing, caring for, and teaching Treasure obedience skills, Conrad notes the difficulty of saying goodbye. Nevertheless, there is satisfaction in “knowing you did something amazing to potentially help another individual gain independence.”

How to Become a Puppy Raiser

A caring, responsible, attentive person makes the best puppy raiser at Guiding Eyes for the Blind. If you can commit to supporting and raising the puppies to become superior seeing-eye dogs, you’ll provide the greatest gift to someone in need: Companionship, mobility and independence.

Look up regional centers on the Guiding Eyes website to ensure there is a location near you for courses and assistance. You can also refer to numerous resources about becoming a puppy raiser.
Raisers must meet specific requirements to be eligible for a puppy, including the following:

  • The whole household must be committed to caring for the puppy during its stay.
  • Raisers are responsible for buying food and toys, while Guiding Eyes covers veterinary bills.
  • You must be able to handle larger dogs, walking them at least three miles daily by the time you return them to Guiding Eyes.
  • The puppy must go everywhere with you and only stay in the crate for a few hours daily.
  • Puppy raisers must train the puppies according to Guiding Eyes’ guidelines. 
  • If you live in a rental property, you must get approval to have the puppy live on the premises beforehand.

If you meet the criteria and are interested in pursuing a puppy to raise, you can sign up for one of Guiding Eyes’ information sessions and apply.

Raise a Puppy and Change Someone’s Life

Becoming a puppy raiser in New York for Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a fulfilling responsibility. As a volunteer, you can give back to people with vision problems while also reaping the rewards of puppy love. Consider providing a puppy its best start in life so it can become the hero it was born to be.

This one aspect of your dog’s life may be the key to his longevity. dark. Next. This one aspect of your dog’s life may be the key to his longevity