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Has anyone raised a service puppy?


mommyoffive
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We raised at least 5 service dogs when I was a kid. I loved the experience--we got to take the dogs everywhere (the mall, the movies(!), the grocery store). This was the early 80's, before dogs were generally allowed in public places like they are now, so it felt thrilling and special. We got to answer tons of questions about the dogs and the program, and even as a young kid I knew we were doing something really meaningful.

 

Giving the dogs up--graduating them--was hard, of course, but soooo worth it. Knowing we had a direct impact in helping the quality of life and safety for the dogs' new owners was a lesson I've never forgotten.

 

I highly, highly recommend taking on an experience like this if you have the means, space and time to do so.

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We raised at least 5 service dogs when I was a kid. I loved the experience--we got to take the dogs everywhere (the mall, the movies(!), the grocery store). This was the early 80's, before dogs were generally allowed in public places like they are now, so it felt thrilling and special. We got to answer tons of questions about the dogs and the program, and even as a young kid I knew we were doing something really meaningful.

 

Giving the dogs up--graduating them--was hard, of course, but soooo worth it. Knowing we had a direct impact in helping the quality of life and safety for the dogs' new owners was a lesson I've never forgotten.

 

I highly, highly recommend taking on an experience like this if you have the means, space and time to do so.

I would appreciate any names of reputable organizations to work with that y'all could share.

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We've been "Puppy Walkers" for two dogs, and are currently long-term boarding a male dog for the association's breeding program (Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind). We have had a lab and a German Shepherd puppy, and our breeding guy is a Standard Poodle. We also do short-term boarding for dogs for the association (anywhere from 5 days to 5 months). The Puppy Walker program uses volunteers to foster dogs from ages 8 weeks to about 2 years, gradually preparing them for the formal service dog training. I prefer being a breeder dog foster mom, as you keep the dog longer and the time commitment and expectations are much less demanding.

 

As a "Puppy Walker" the main goal is to socialize the dog, not provide the formal service dog training, but even so there is a lot of training work required. We had weekly obedience classes, and our Puppy Walker supervisor met with us at least twice a month. The things you do with the puppy evolve throughout the time you have them. If they are very young (e.g., 8 weeks) they haven't had all their shots so you don't bring them anywhere. You gradually, over the next 18 - 24 months, start bringing them more and more places, starting with the local neighbourhood, and eventually into buildings and on public transportation. It takes months and months to work up to this, and the supervisor is responsible for leading you through it all. 

 

It is very rewarding, as well as being a big commitment, but it's also an amazing learning experience about how to care for dogs. Of course it's difficult to say good-bye to the dogs, but there is always a special sense of purpose with the dogs that isn't there with a normal pet. For our association, there are also a lot of special "rules" for the dogs, mostly to prevent injury, but also so that habits wouldn't be present for their eventual life with a blind client. The rules include no playing fetch with balls or sticks, no off-leash running in public parks (private yards was fine), no going up on furniture, no treats (other than their regular kibble), and only certain chew toys. 

 

Hope this helps a little. 

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We've been "Puppy Walkers" for two dogs, and are currently long-term boarding a male dog for the association's breeding program (Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind). We have had a lab and a German Shepherd puppy, and our breeding guy is a Standard Poodle. We also do short-term boarding for dogs for the association (anywhere from 5 days to 5 months). The Puppy Walker program uses volunteers to foster dogs from ages 8 weeks to about 2 years, gradually preparing them for the formal service dog training. I prefer being a breeder dog foster mom, as you keep the dog longer and the time commitment and expectations are much less demanding.

 

As a "Puppy Walker" the main goal is to socialize the dog, not provide the formal service dog training, but even so there is a lot of training work required. We had weekly obedience classes, and our Puppy Walker supervisor met with us at least twice a month. The things you do with the puppy evolve throughout the time you have them. If they are very young (e.g., 8 weeks) they haven't had all their shots so you don't bring them anywhere. You gradually, over the next 18 - 24 months, start bringing them more and more places, starting with the local neighbourhood, and eventually into buildings and on public transportation. It takes months and months to work up to this, and the supervisor is responsible for leading you through it all. 

 

It is very rewarding, as well as being a big commitment, but it's also an amazing learning experience about how to care for dogs. Of course it's difficult to say good-bye to the dogs, but there is always a special sense of purpose with the dogs that isn't there with a normal pet. For our association, there are also a lot of special "rules" for the dogs, mostly to prevent injury, but also so that habits wouldn't be present for their eventual life with a blind client. The rules include no playing fetch with balls or sticks, no off-leash running in public parks (private yards was fine), no going up on furniture, no treats (other than their regular kibble), and only certain chew toys. 

 

Hope this helps a little. 

 

totally makes sense, but really good things for us to think about.

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As a possibility, if you are on the East Coast, I would recommend looking at The Seeing Eye website and checking if there is a coordinator in your area that you could talk to about everything that's involved.

 

With The Seeing Eye, you get a stipend for food and vet bills are covered.

 

The Seeing Eye has similar rules. They allow fetch but no tug-of-war type of playing.

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We have been to several Venture scout camporees that had service dogs. Scouts signed up to play with the dogs. The owners explained that it was good for the dogs to interact with as many people as possible (in a controlled setting). The dogs were just amazing.

 

Good luck on your project!

Edited by Alessandra
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