FROM PUPPY TO GUIDE DOG
March 23 is International Puppy Day, and to celebrate, we’re sharing the story of some of the hardest working puppies we know.
From puppyhood to full-on working dog, the path puppies take to become a guide dog or service dog is designed to set them up for success. The goal? Confident, well-trained, and dedicated guide dogs and service dogs that will enhance the lives of people with disabilities.
Let’s follow along as pups from our friends at the Guide Dog Foundation begin their journey at the Foundation’s headquarters in Smithtown, New York.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Just like any puppy, Guide Dog Foundation pups benefit from essential bonding with mom from Day 1. They snuggle up close and learn their first lessons about being a dog from her.
ALL THINGS NEW
Bring on the funny smells, odd sounds, curious textures, and fascinating things. These 6-week-old future guide dog pups are experiencing things for the first time in a positive setting. It’s the first step in creating comfortable, relaxed dogs in a range of environments.
At 8-10 weeks old, each puppy gets matched with a puppy raiser. They’ll go to a home and begin learning basic obedience and house manners.
The pup adjusts to a new environment and expands its repertoire of skills with the puppy raiser. Learning basic obedience and being exposed to new experiences around town gives them the chance to investigate all sorts of new sights and smells. Socialization, positive reinforcement, and a connection to their handler is important for a future guide dog.
ONE STEP CLOSER
At about 14 to 16 months old, pups return to the Foundation’s campus. For the next three to four months, they will undergo training and evaluation to determine a well-suited career path. This stage helps further shape the pup to be a confident and successful guide.
At the Guide Dog Foundation, dogs who progress well through the training and show promise as a working dog can follow a few career paths. Some become guide dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired. Others will become service dogs for people with disabilities other than blindness. Whichever path they take, they end up being a life-changing means of independence and mobility for people with disabilities.
And even those who don’t make it all the way through training to become guide or services dogs – those who end up making a “career change” – still end up with an important job: bringing joy to everyday life for their new family.
Have you ever volunteered as a puppy raiser? Want to give a shout out to the amazing work these pups are doing? Let us know in the comments below or on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you have any questions, feedback, or ideas, please don’t hesitate to bark.