The puppies are placed in foster homes at eight weeks of age. The volunteer foster families are called Puppy Raisers.
All first-time applicants must fill out applications and be interviewed before a puppy is placed in the home. Raisers must live in Southern California (Sylmar, San Gabriel Valley, South Bay, Orange County, Westside Los Angeles, San Diego, Ventura or San Luis Obispo), Washington state (Vancouver or Seattle area), Montana (close to Missoula) or Colorado (close to Canon City). Children and pets in the household are a plus.
At the time of the interview, the Puppy Raiser receives a Puppy Manual on puppy raising. At the time of placement the Puppy Raiser will receive a bowl, brush, bone, leash, collar, ID tag, ID card, puppy jacket and a 5 lb bag of dog food.
Food and any items purchased for the puppy are tax deductible. Guide Dogs of America pays for all veterinary bills, on a reimbursement basis.
Your Role as a Puppy Raiser: As a Puppy Raiser you will play an essential part in making sure your puppy receives the proper socialization needed to help adjust to the important job it will be doing later on in life.
It will be your responsibility to socialize the puppy as much as you can. Take the puppy everywhere. Expose it to as many different situations as possible (construction sites, heavy traffic areas, animals, children). A well socialized puppy will have fewer adjustments to make when it comes in for formal guide dog training.
The Puppy Raiser is required to teach the puppy basic obedience, such as how to walk on a leash, how to sit, stay, lay down, and come when called. It will be your responsibility to take your puppy through an approved basic obedience class and to attend monthly meetings. The meetings allow your puppy to interact with other dogs and it gives you the opportunity to talk to other Puppy Raisers. It is a good time to make friends and compare notes on your puppies.
The puppy returns to Guide Dogs of America for formal guide dog training at about eighteen months of age. Guide Dogs of America holds an In-For-Training Luncheon for Puppy Raisers when it is time to bring their puppies in as a way to say thank you, to get together one last time, and to give Puppy Raisers an opportunity to say good bye as they send their puppy off to formal training.
Formal training takes about four to six months. There is no visiting during this time but the Puppy Raiser can call to see how their puppy is doing while in training. The ultimate reward for the Puppy Raisers is to meet the blind recipient of the dog they raised at the Graduation Ceremony.
To apply to be a Puppy Raiser, please click here.