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Old January 20th, 2003, 03:16 PM
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Raising guide dogs is a rewarding experience

Raising guide dogs is a rewarding experience

by Eldon K. Fisher
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

Raising a guide dog puppy is really fun and a very rewarding experience, but you have to know that itís a lot of work and a huge responsibility. Itís a great project for the whole family. Itís a wonderful feeling that youíve been able to help someone.

Puppy raising is an excellent way to have fun while being involved in community service. Adults and children 9 years and older raise German shepherd, labrador retriever and golden retriever puppies for the Guide Dog Program. These pups have been bred from specially selected breeding stock. When they are approximately 2 months old, the puppies are placed into the waiting arms of the dedicated raisers who will spend the next year preparing them for their special destinies.


Guide dog puppies sleep inside the house and are members of the family. House breaking and basic manners are taught at an early age. To prepare them for their future work as guides, they are exposed to grocery stores, restaurants, schools, malls, offices, etc. Each raiser is asked to bring their pup to local meetings with other raisers to work on training techniques.

Fun Day is an annual theme event that takes place at the Guide Dog campuses. This event provides hands-on training by experts who show raisers how to shape their pupís behavior. Veterinary specialists are on hand for consultation, and puppy raisers have a chance to meet others who are involved in this important project. The day is full of activities which display the puppiesí abilities and introduce them to new experiences. Fun Days are also held by puppy raising groups in their local areas.

The dogs are returned to the Guide Dog campuses when they are between 14-18 months old for formal training with licensed instructors. After approximately five months of preparation, they are paired with blind or visually impaired students throughout the United States and Canada. These students come to Guide Dog school and spend up to a month learning to travel with their new guide dogs as teams. Their instruction begins in rural areas and progresses to busy city streets.

At graduation, puppy raisers present their guide dogs to their new partners.

Guide Dogs for the Blind Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization which was established in 1942 to provide a safe means of mobility for the blind. Training and services are provided free of charge at two locations: an Oregon campus, 25 miles east of Portland; and a California campus, 20 miles north of San Francisco.

There are more than 1,000 families raising puppies for the Guide Dog Program throughout the Western states. 4-H club leaders and raisers receive valuable training and support from Guide Dog staff.

The contribution made by our puppy raisers is paramount to the success of our dogs as guides. You can help give the gift of sight. Guide Dog puppies are available for placement every month. For more information, please contact the Puppy Raising Department at Guide Dogs for the Blind Inc. or your local Extension Office.
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