Most dogs are just household pets but some dogs, such as police dogs, sled dogs, and guide dogs, work for a living. Guide dogs are far different than your average couch potato dog. They are constantly moving and experiencing new things. They are asked to navigate a world designed for humans. They are somebody’s ears, eyes, or supervisor. Guide dogs work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Do you ever wonder how guide dogs are trained and raised? Do you ever wonder if you could help? Dog Guides of Canada is always looking for people to train and raise puppies. They need people with a busy, active lifestyle who are dedicated to raising the puppies to become well-mannered and socialized dogs. Does that sound like you?
The dogs are bred by the organization specifically to be guide dogs. The most common breeds are poodles, Labrador retrievers, and golden retrievers. Many times the puppies are mixes of these breeds. They are bred to be smart, devoted, and calm. These dogs are raised to fill a certain need in someone’s life. They may become helpers for the blind, the deaf, people who have seizures, or people with mental disabilities. The organization works with the individual dogs to figure out what career will suit them best.
Once the puppies are old enough to leave their mother, they go to ordinary homes. This is the perfect place for you to become involved. You do not need to do any complicated training with these puppies. The goal of placing the puppy in a normal household is to get it well socialized with people and animals, and to expose it to the human world. Your puppy will get a little ‘guide dog in training’ jacket, which allows it to go anywhere with you, from a grocery store to a hockey game. The more places you go, the better socialized the puppy will become. Of course, you will have to take things slowly. You cannot expect a puppy to become calm and comfortable in the scary world from day one.
The guide dog organization takes care of most of the expenses, such as food and veterinary bills. The only things you have to worry about are a deposit for the kennel (which you get back when the dog returns for training), treats and toys. The biggest expense for you will be the time that you invest in the puppy, not the money. Because we all know how much effort and time it takes to raise and train a puppy!
You may be wondering about what happens when the dog guide organization wants the puppy back. Puppies usually stay with the family until they are nine months to one year old. Then they go back to the organization for intensive training and a selection process, to see what job suits them the best. Not all puppies pass the training session. There are medical and behavioural reasons that some puppies do not become guide dogs. These dogs are available for adoption. The family that raised the puppy gets first choice to adopt it. There is also usually a waiting list of families willing to adopt a puppy that does not pass training.
After the dog finishes training with the organization, it is matched with a person in need. The person and dog complete extensive training with each other. This is a critical part of the dog’s training. By this point the animal knows what it should be doing, but it needs to build a relationship with the person it will be working with. Training guide dog puppies is not easy, because training any puppy is not easy. However, what makes this more difficult is that you have to give the puppy back to the organization. Many people find this very difficult and very sad, because they have developed such a strong relationship with the dog.
On the other hand, you must keep in mind that your guide dog puppy is going into good hands. Guide dogs are lucky because they love their work, and they love the people that they work with. By raising a guide dog puppy, you are helping give someone the gift of freedom. You are helping to fill a void in their life.
Raising a guide dog puppy is not the right choice for everyone. You need to have a busy life, but also be willing to put the time and energy into a puppy. It is a very satisfying job to do, because it helps you help others. So next time you see a guide dog, think about the love and training that it took to get that dog to where it is.
By Ashley O’ Driscoll – Pets.ca writer