Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Puppy Raising and Why It Works

As a puppy raiser for CCI, I have learned why people who don't necessarily have dog training experience are chosen for the special role of preparing a puppy for a special job. I usually tell people that I am a volunteer puppy raiser, but sometimes I forget and get the question "Do you get payed?" I always respond by saying something like this. "No I don't get payed, but it's well worth it!" People ask why they don't just go to professionals from the very start, too.

A few days ago I watched a documentary on service dogs from another organization. It was very interesting and though smaller was roughly based on CCI's training methods... except for one thing... puppy raising! This organization didn't have puppy raisers. The puppies live at the training center from the day they are born to the day they are released or graduate. I saw a problem with this. The dogs had never been away from the center except for public outings with professionals. The dogs seemed to do okay at the training center. But one boy's service dog freaked out in the home setting and was a nervous wreck. I would blame that the dog never staying over night in a home or living in a home for that matter.
Puppy raisers change that. Even if we mess up we introduce our puppies to home life, routine, public places, and the dog learns how to respond in many situations that will be common in the life of an active service dogs. So I would say that puppy raising programs are much better than living in a kennel and training with a professional trainer.

Puppy raisers also double as public relations. And because we take our dogs most everywhere we go and because we are volunteers we inspire others and get out the word about service/guide dogs.

And no matter how good the trainer is dogs can change when their surroundings change. Puppy raisers have the ability to focus on a single dog and give it the attention and training that the dogs want and need. The dogs also learn how to bond and seem to easily bond with their new partners later in life. If you think about it the service dog recipients aren't professionals either. They get two weeks of training with their new partner and then they go home and begin their lives as a team!

I've had time to focus on Dembre and give him what he needs

CCI dogs are raised with love and learn to use love to serve others
~Elijah & Dembre


  1. I would agree with you. Dogs don't generalize well so Socialization is the key to puppy raising. My area coordinator used to tell us all the time, to focus on socializing the dog verses making sure their commands were great. I used to disagree with her on that,...and still do to some extent but after being an Advanced Trainer I know completely understand what she means.

  2. I agree, but the same issue can happen when a dog is raised as well. If there aren't enough varied home environments the dogs are exposed to they can still freak out in a new one. And how many dogs (even that are with puppy raisers) attend elementary school every day? A very very small number. That organization does use volunteers, it's much like the prison program many organizations have, the volunteers take the dogs for a weekend or so to get them used to living in a home. A large number of their dogs also get to experience riding in the cabin of airplanes and going to do homevisits with potential clients. I agree, I wasn't fond of the idea when I first saw the show, and honestly, I'm still not. But many things play into how dogs handle change and while puppy raising is an amazing thing, I don't think the lack of raising is why that dog had an issue. I think you'd be surprised to learn how many dogs are returned to organizations that use puppy raisers within 6 months to a year after being placed. :-D

  3. @ Ally & Eclipse: Very interesting points to consider. that is very true non-puppy raiser organizations do have volunteers and I'm sure love the dogs, but puppy raising seems to have higher passing rate results and a better rounded puppy when turn-in time comes. The fact that many dogs are returned within six months of being placed is definitely a fact. I don't know if you're talking about dogs being raised returning to the organization or the graduate dogs being returned, but I'll take it both ways. I know multiple puppy raisers that have taken dogs that have been reclaimed by CCI. Many of the dogs were coming from puppy raisers that were not responsible and disregarded CCI's basic rules. Puppy Raising has problems, but is very effective. I also know of quite a few CCI graduate dogs who have been returned for multiple reasons. Some of those reasons might have been instituted by the puppy raiser and sometimes teams are mismatched and just don't work out. The organization that I was using as an example was Canine Assistants and I have high respect for their program and mission. I just think that puppy raising programs are more effective. I am not saying that puppy raising is the only way to go, just that it has worked great for CCI, GDB, SEGD, KSDS, and many other guide and service dog organizations.

    Sorry for the length,
    Elijah & Dembre

  4. That brings up several great points. I know several people who have raised guide dogs and the places they go and the change of scenery the dogs get on a daily basis really shapes them into being such great members of society. I definatley think that a guide dog raised in a home environment and is a member of a loving family is the best way to go, In my opinion.


We love hearing from our readers!
Thanks for stopping by,
Elijah and Hobart