“Roomba” is well into six months of age and progressing on track. This month, we thought that we might answer some questions that have been posed over the last few months and familiarize everyone with what the future holds for our team.
Q: Let's start with the #1 question that our puppy raisers are always asked: Isn't it hard to give the puppies up?
A: The short answer is, of course it is! Puppy raisers do become very attached to their puppies; however, they are comforted with the knowledge that their dogs will go on to enrich people's lives, providing companionship, friendship and comfort, and helping handicapped people travel safely and confidently as they pursue their goals in life.
Q: Where can a Guide Dog puppy accompany its puppy raiser?
A: A Guide Dog puppy should be exposed to a variety of socialization experiences. Puppy raisers take their pups to malls, grocery stores, school and work, among other places.
Q: What happens to a puppy that does not become a guide?
A: Our dogs that don't graduate as guides can go on to a number of alternative careers within our program. If a dog doesn't qualify for any of our other alternative careers, they become known as "career-change" dogs, and the puppy raiser is given priority to keep the dog as a pet. If the raiser is unable or chooses not to keep the dog, KSDS will place them in loving adoptive homes.
Q: What is the timeframe for raising a puppy? How long do raisers keep the dogs?
A: Raisers receive the pups when they are approximately 8 weeks old, and they usually remain in the puppy raiser home until they are between 14 and 18 months old. The length of time may vary, however, depending on the individual puppy's development or our need for dogs.
Q: Is it time-consuming to raise a Guide Dog puppy?
A: Raising a Guide Dog puppy does involve spending time grooming, socializing and caring for the puppy. Puppy raisers are taught ways in which to work ongoing training into a daily schedule.
Q: What are the main responsibilities of Guide Dog puppy raisers? Who teaches the dogs how to guide a person who is blind?
A: Puppy raisers are responsible for teaching puppies good behavior both at home and in public, and what to expect and accept in this busy world. Raisers also rear the pups to be close companions—to trust and be trusted. The raisers' goal is to develop energetic and curious pups into mature, dependable dogs that have the following characteristics:
- Well-behaved: The pups have good house manners and will not relieve in the house. They are quiet and calm, eat only their own food and are not destructive.
- Socialized to the world: The pups have been exposed to a wide variety of people, things and places and accept new situations in a calm manner.
- Well-traveled: The puppies are relaxed and comfortable when traveling in all modes of transportation: cars, buses, trains, airplanes, ferries, etc.
- People-friendly: The pups bond well with people, enjoy receiving verbal praise and are eager to please.
- Animal-friendly: The pups are calm and appropriate around all sorts of animals including other dogs, cats, birds, livestock, etc.
- Responsive: The pups obey basic commands and are cooperative during various training exercises.
The actual training where the dogs learn the specific skills and commands to be Guide Dogs is done on the KSDS campus in Washington, Kansas by professional trainers. KSDS is affiliated with the Assistance Dog International Organization. We hope that we have answered some of the more common questions and would love to hear from any of you with any other questions or comments!
Here's to the New Year and the challenges that it holds!