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Canine Program

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Puppy Raising Program Overview

With selfless commitment and support, puppy raisers are an integral part of the program that make our mission a reality!  As a volunteer puppy raiser with Guide Dogs of the Desert, you help ensure safe mobility, love, companionship and the miracle of independence for the blind and visually impaired through the use of a guide dog.

Volunteer Puppy Raisers receive a puppy between 8-12 weeks of age, and are responsible for teaching the puppies basic obedience, socializing them, and training them to have good house manners. As a puppy raiser, you would be expected to raise the puppy until 18–20 months of age at which time the dog comes back to Guide Dogs of the Desert for its formal guide dog training. GDD’s trained staff will work closely with you throughout this 18-20 month period.

All interested individuals or families are required to fill out a puppy raiser application. The Canine Development Department will then contact you to set up an in-home or phone interview as well as discuss the program in detail.

If both you and Guide Dogs of the Desert are satisfied with the interview process, we will place you on the waiting list for a puppy. Your wait on the list could range between one week and six months before a suitable puppy becomes available.

Once a puppy is available, you will be notified and asked to attend an orientation meeting. Immediately following this orientation, puppy raisers will be given a puppy to raise along with all the necessary supplies to get you started with the dog.

Potential Puppy Raisers Need To Meet Certain Criteria:

  1. Puppy Raisers must be at least 10 years of age with parental involvement and support. The adult is the responsible party.
  2. Puppy Raisers must have a car in order to transport the puppy in an emergency.
  3. Puppy Raisers must agree to allow the pup to sleep indoors at night
  4. Puppy Raisers must agree to socialize, obedience train, and housebreak the puppy.
  5. Puppy Raisers need to be able to walk 2-3 miles per day, bend, carry up to 25 lbs., sit on floor, stand and stoop frequently. Puppy Raisers must be willing to get up throughout the night to relieve the puppy until it is old enough to sleep through the night.

If you are interested in becoming a puppy raiser, please contact Trina Ver Vooren at 760-329-1282 or tvervooren@gddca.org

Puppy Raiser Responsibilities

The Guide Dog Puppy will need lots of love and socialization. You are expected to housebreak your puppy and familiarize it with people, animals, traffic, noises, and strange surroundings that are age appropriate. You also need to ensure that your puppy can ride comfortably and safely in a car. You will need to attend basic obedience classes either at GDD or a class close to your home – no treat training.

Puppy Living Arrangements

The puppy must be raised as an inside dog spending time with family members and guests. Puppies must sleep beside the bed of the primary puppy raiser in a crate or on tie-down. Sleeping in the garage or on the patio is not acceptable. You will need to establish a relieving area such as a fenced yard or leash relieving.

Puppy Raiser’s Costs

Costs that may be incurred while raising a puppy

It is the puppy raiser’s responsibility to cover the cost for food, toys, damages, veterinary care (if you’re unable to come to the GDD Wellness Center), and travel expenses.  These expenses could range upwards of $1,000.  As Guide Dogs of the Desert is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, all expenses incurred in raising a Guide Dog Puppy may be tax deductible; please check with your personal tax advisor.

Puppy Raising

Guide Dogs of the Desert breeds 95% of the puppies that are used in the puppy raising program.

We currently breed Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Standard Poodles, and German Shepherds.

Puppy raisers receive the guide dog puppy at approximately 12 weeks of age and they foster them until they are between 18 to 20 months of age. These are normal puppies that will chew, bark, whine, and cry. And…..they are not housebroken.

To get you started raising the puppy, you will receive a Puppy Starter Kit that includes: crate, 5-lb bag of food, bowl, toy, grooming tool, leash/collar, tie down, puppy manual/obedience manual, and puppy jacket.

All non-consumable items are to be returned to GDD when the puppy is called back for formal training.


Apply to Become a Puppy Raiser

 

Returning Puppy Raisers

  • Address * Required
  • Has any of the above information changed since you last puppy raised?
  • Are you currently involved with another service dog organization?
  • Are all dogs in the house at least 6 months old?
  • Are they spayed/neutered?
  • All all pets licensed through your local animal control/city?
  • Do you expect any major life changes in the next year (moving, career change, hospitalization, etc.)?
  • Breed Preference Options
  • Gender Preference
  • The puppy raiser is responsible for providing a loving atmosphere and socialization and for teaching the puppy appropriate house behavior. The approximate cost to the raiser is $1,000. This cost is considered a donation and may be tax-deductible. Please check each checkbox to agree to the conditions.
  • * Required
  • * Required
  • * Required
  • Guide Dogs of the Desert provides inoculations and worming if you bring the puppy to the training facility. If puppies are not considered for breeding stock, Guide Dogs of the Desert will reimburse for neutering up to $75.00 or provide for neutering by our own veterinarian. Guide Dogs of the Desert will provide occasional boarding at the training facility, including boarding of females in season.

 

Foster Care

Foster family volunteers provide short-term care for our dogs of all ages – from puppies to young adults to dogs recovering from a medical procedure. On occasion, Guide Dogs of the Desert looks for foster homes for a few days or weeks at a time.

Foster families need to provide a loving home environment that is stress free.  This program works best when one member of the family is available to work from home or has permission to take the puppy/dog to work.

Our foster dogs are not be left unattended outside at any time.  A crate will be provided as a safe place if you have to run an errand and are unable to take the foster dog with you. Foster dogs are not to be crated for more than two hours.

Our foster family volunteers must agree to the following:

  • I am at least 18 years of age.
  • I have reliable transportation to bring foster dog to appointments as necessary.
  • I will keep foster dogs and personal dogs separated.
  • I understand the dog I agree to foster is not available for adoption and agree to return the dog upon the school’s request.

 

Breeder Host

Breeder hosts play an integral part of our breeding program that makes our mission possible! As a volunteer breeder host with Guide Dogs of the Desert, you help ensure safe mobility, love, companionship and the miracle of independence for the blind and visually impaired through the use of a guide dog.

The volunteer breeder hosts are responsible for maintaining the potential breeder dog’s wellness until they are called back to the breeding facility. The staff of the breeding center will work closely with you throughout this period.

 All interested individuals or families are required to fill out a breeder host application. The Canine Development Department will then contact you to set up an in-home or phone interview as well as discuss the program in detail.

If both you and Guide Dogs of the Desert are satisfied with the interview process, we will place you on our waiting list until a dog becomes available.

Already a Breeder Host? Access the Breeder Host Monthly Report.

Breeding & Whelping

Over the years, several different breeds of dogs have proven to be most successful as guide dogs. These dog breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Standard Poodles, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds; and it is these breeds that Guide Dogs of the Desert has chosen for our program.

Through Guide Dogs of the Desert’s breeding program, we strive to ensure that our dogs are the best we can possibly provide to individuals, who are legally blind or visually impaired. This means we make good use of extensive genetic and sophisticated DNA testing to ensure our dogs are the healthiest, have superior temperaments, and can work for a minimum of 8 to 10 years. For superior results, we do not cross breed our purebred dogs nor do we use any cross breeds in our program.

In preparation to go out into the world as a guide dog, the puppies are handled and socialized from the time they are born. At between 8-12 weeks old, the puppies receive a checkup before advancing into puppy training and are given to their puppy raisers. Once puppies are selected as breeder dogs and they pass all of their examinations, they are ready for breeding and brought into the breeding center, where they receive around-the-clock care.

Fun Fact

  • Most of our breeding dogs are raised in our guide dog puppy raising program.  This way we can pick from the top dogs for our breeding program. They are usually picked between 16 and 24 months of age.
  • Labrador Retrievers are the most successful as guide dogs worldwide. 
  • When breeding dogs are not in active use for the program, they live with breeder host families. 

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