Giving the Gift of Independence
Guiding Eyes Looks for Volunteer Puppy Raisers and Sitters
April 19, 2019
by Doug Robinson
“Together we can give the gift of independence, freedom, and confidence to achieve life’s goals” writes Guiding Eyes for the Blind. To say that “a dog is a man’s best friend” would be an understatement for Guiding Eyes for the Blind Organization.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind Canine Development Center was established in 1966 and has become “an international leader in breeding and genetics” for guide dogs. “Guiding Eyes is proud of our breeding program built upon best-in-class analysis of genetic data from every step of a dog’s life. We are passionate about connecting exceptional dogs with individuals for greater independence,” according to Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
The American Foundation for the Blind states, “the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data release established that an estimated 26.9 million adult Americans (or about 10% of all adult Americans) reported they either “have trouble” seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, or that they are blind or unable to see at all.”
With this need, Guiding Eyes for the Blind are looking for volunteer puppy raisers to take a 2-month-old Guiding Eyes dog into their home for 14-16 months to socialize them to the world around them and to teach basic obedience and good house manners.
Prior puppy experience is not required and pre-placement classes are conducted to help potential raisers learn if puppy raising is right for them. Once matched, the “successive training and enrichment program” would be introduced as this program “is our unique relationship-based approach to training in which raisers teach puppies essential skills in sequential steps.”
A structured learning seminar was recently held at Alvirne High School, where 11 puppies and their raisers were offered the opportunity to “work with your pup from the car to the front door” and then continue that training inside Alvirne High School.
Ben, Hope, Wiffle, Coconut, Orson, Hayley, Whitley, Indo, Nugent, Stan, Henry, and Brooklyn were challenged to remain focused to the instructions of their raiser. The young pups need to overcome stairs and elevators, multiple distractions of food, and animal smells as well as other animals, people, and cows.
Guiding Eyes personnel evaluated each dog and raiser as they progressed through the challenging training course. When Brooklyn would not come down the stairs, her raiser simple leaned down, picked Brooklyn up, and continued to encourage Brooklyn, thus reducing the dog’s internal stress.
When Ben began to jump and search out an unknown smell, her raiser calmly distracted Ben so that Ben could refocus to the task at hand.
Regional Manager, Patricia Webber, said that “While most of our dogs are Labradors, 7 percent of our dogs are German Shepherds. We encourage that it is really important to concentrate on our relationship training with each dog. We build puppy confidence in a positive and encouraging environment.”
“All approved veterinary care is paid for by Guiding Eyes for the Blind as well as monthly preventive care, crates, and collars.”
Webber continued to say that, “It is a huge commitment. Our raisers are responsible for nurturing a puppy to prepare it for guide dog training ever a 12- to 16-month period. Raisers care for our young dogs and equip them with the skills they need to take on a job that will change someone’s life. Many of our volunteers find the experience life-changing, too.”
Our network includes couples, families with children, young adults, and senior citizens, living in cities, suburbs, the countryside, apartments, houses, you name it. We are extremely proud that so many raisers enjoy our program enough to renew their commitment to raise another puppy. In fact, 69 percent are repeat raisers, and some people have raised more than 30 puppies.
Guiding Eyes states, “For those interested, pre-placement puppy screening and informational classes are offered where people can learn more about training for both raisers and sitters. There will also be the opportunity to take a puppy home for a few days to see if the program is a fit for you.”
For more information, visit: https://www.guidingeyes.org/how-to-help/volunteer/puppy-raising/ or call 866-GEB-LABS.