by Jessica Woods
Imagine that you have decided to take on the task of becoming a puppy raiser for Southeastern guide dog. As a new puppy raiser, you are agreeing to take a new puppy and raise it to become a guide dog for the blind. Yes, it is a lot of hard work; but it is also a rewarding experience. Many people across the southeast have taken on this task. This is a crucial part of a guide dog’s training. Without the puppy raisers, the guide dog program would not be as successful as it is. Southeastern is always excited when someone decides to become a puppy raiser. I will describe to you in this entry what the dog goes through while with its puppy raiser.
It all begins as a new nine week old puppy is placed in the loving arms of an excited puppy raiser. This is an exhilarating moment for the person. They are now holding a dog with the potential of helping someone in the future. They get the great joy of being a part of this great cause.
After a raiser is given a puppy, the work really begins. These first two years of a dog’s life are very important. At this time the dog learns basic house manners and obedience commands such as sit, stay, and down. In addition, the raiser must teach the dog some find commands. Examples of these are: find, the door, find the car, find the chair, and many more find commands that a person might need. In all, the dog learns a total of forty commands.
Even more important than these commands is the need to socialize the puppy. To do this, the puppy raiser takes the dog everywhere he or she goes. This is to ensure that the dog will be comfortable in any situation that its future owner may put it in. For instance, a dog must be comfortable around moving traffic. If the dog is fearful, it will not be able to help its future owner navigate busy intersections, parking lots, and sidewalks.
A dog must also learn how to resist temptations. They must learn to ignore people when they are out in public. The dog must learn the difference between work and play time. You, as the public, can help the puppy raiser with this. If you see a dog out in public, it would be greatly appreciated if you don’t go up and pet the puppy. You may ask the raiser if you can pet the puppy. The raiser may say yes or no. It really depends on the circumstances that the dog is in at the time. Please don’t take it personally if you are told no by the raiser. His or her answer has absolutely nothing to do with you; it has to do with what is best for the dog. There will be many instances in which the raiser says yes. This is because the dog needs to get used to people. However, the dog must learn that it can not be petted by everyone it comes in contact with.
In addition to learning to work around people, it is also good to have the guide dog puppies work together. This is accomplished by having meetings with all the puppy raisers and their dogs. Not only is this good for the raisers to get advice from each other, it is good for the dogs. They learn how to stay in control while having the distraction of other dogs. This will be good after the dog goes back to the guide dog school and after it has been matched with someone.
All of this training takes about two years to complete. At the end of these two years, the dog is called back to the school. This is a tough time for the puppy raiser. He or she must let go of a puppy that has been with them for two years. This is hard; but the raiser knows that the dog is one step closer to becoming a successful guide dog. As they let there dog go for the last time, they can walk away with the knowledge that they did their best. Now it is up to the trainers and the dog to continue the training process.