Ever wonder how an energetic puppy becomes a disciplined, focused seeing-eye-dog? Animal lovers will be happy to know that this doesn’t involve any type of animal cruelty or violation of puppy labor laws.
Preparation begins when they are puppies and can take up to 18 months to complete. Programs such as the Puppy-Raising Program from The Seeing Eye match prospective pups to foster families who can provide a loving and nurturing environment to these future guide dogs. Puppy-raising clubs also organize outings that provide social interaction and share tips on teaching good puppy behavior. Instruction and training are provided for both the dogs and the people who will adopt them as guides.
Guide Dogs of America (GDA) is a guide dog service that works using a three-part program. The Breeding Program involves the use of three breed types: Labrador Retrievers (70%), Golden Retrievers (15%) and German Shepherds (15%). When the puppies are born, they are placed in foster homes with volunteer families at eight weeks of age. These families are known as Puppy Raisers. Volunteers must go through an applications and interview process before they are allowed to become Puppy Raisers. Along with providing the care and shelter a puppy needs, Puppy Raisers are charged with the task of socializing the animal so that it becomes accustomed to as many situations as possible. Puppy Raisers are also charged with the tasks of teaching the puppy basic obedience and enrolling the puppy in monthly meetings to allow it to interact with other dogs. After the puppy hits 18 months, it is brought back to GDA for formal guide dog training which lasts four to six months. During formal training, Puppy Raisers are not allowed access to the dogs but they may receive updates on its progress. After formal training, they are invited to the graduation where, during the Awards Ceremony, they can meet the blind recipient of the dog they raised.