Guiding Eyes for the Blind
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Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising

There are many ways to help at Guiding Eyes for the Blind. We are always looking for loving and caring Puppy Raisers in our local Catoctin region. To find out more, you can contact one of the Catoctin region coordinators.

You can also speak with us at any of our local classes or events.

Or simply call 1-866-GEB-LABS (1-866-432-5227).

Helpful Links:

The Application Process

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Who Can Raise a Puppy?
Commitment
Support for the Raiser
Raising a Puppy
Letting Go
How to Proceed
It must be tough to give up a puppy. How do you do it?
Are the raisers responsible for veterinary expenses?
What does a puppy raiser do?
Do puppy raisers train the puppies to be guide dogs?
What breeds make the best guide dogs?
Where do the dogs come from?
Why do some dogs not make it as guide dogs?
What happens to puppies that don't make it as guide dogs?
Do blind people pay for the dogs?
How long do guide dogs work?
What happens to guide dogs that are too old to work?


Who Can Raise a Puppy?

Almost anyone who is committed to and capable of raising a healthy, confident puppy in a safe environment can be a raiser. No prior experience is necessary because Guiding Eyes provides raisers classes, a manual, videos and expert guidance to help raisers help their puppies reach their full potential. Puppy raisers must live close enough to a puppy raising region for Guiding Eyes to provide support and for the raiser to attend quarterly evaluations (see the directory of regions). Puppy raisers can be single or have families. There is no requirement to have previously owned a dog. Any family pets must accept a puppy and be a good influence on the pup. Raisers with young dogs must be able to let the dog out every four hours. People who work and cannot make it home every four hours can raise older "home change" puppies. Raisers with a preference for a particular breed can choose from Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers.

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Commitment

To help ensure that puppies are safe and that they reach their full potential, Guiding Eyes has high expectations of puppy raisers.

  • All members of the household must be committed to raising a puppy.
  • Pets must accept a puppy and be a good influence on the pup.
  • Raisers must be able to accommodate the need for young puppies to be let out regularly to eliminate. As they get older, the pups can wait longer periods.
  • Puppies must be crate trained and kept in a crate (supplied by Guiding Eyes) when they cannot be supervised.
  • When outside, pups must always be on leash and supervised.
    Raisers must provide daily exercise and socialization for the puppies. This typically requires three hours per day.
  • Raisers must attend quarterly evaluations in their regions. Some regions require attendance at classes between evaluations. (See the directory of regions for locations and other details.)
  • Raisers typically pay for food (about $300 per year) and incidental expenses, such as leashes and toys. These expenses might be tax-deductible. Consult with your tax adviser.

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Support for the Raiser

Guiding Eyes provides excellent support for its raisers.

Raisers receive a puppy raising manual, a training video and expert personal guidance on how to raise mature, confident dogs. Many regions provide classes for raisers. Each region also has volunteers who provide miscellaneous support, ranging from a sympathetic ear to answers to common and uncommon questions. Guiding Eyes provides for medical care and crates for the puppies. Each region helps arrange for volunteers to take care of puppies when their raisers leave town.

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Raising a Puppy

People interested in raising a puppy must complete an application. Eligible applicants are interviewed to ensure that they can provide a safe and supportive home for puppies.

Guiding Eyes breeds Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers from lines that have exhibited the traits required to be a guide, such as excellent health and a confident, serene and friendly temperament. Raisers can express a preference for the type of dog they raise. Puppies' temperaments are tested when they are seven weeks old. Those that show promise as potential guide dogs are matched with waiting raisers.

When the puppies are seven to nine weeks old they are delivered to their raisers. The raisers teach the puppies basic manners and provide socialization experience. At the beginning this includes housebreaking, crate training and teaching the puppies to pay attention on command. Later the training includes walking in a controlled manner and behaving civilly around other people. Many regions provide classes for raisers. As the puppies mature and exhibit increasing confidence, the raisers expose them to new experiences and environments, always working to make the experiences positive to build the dogs' confidence. Raisers also provide healthy doses of play and exercise.

Quarterly, a Puppy Evaluator from Guiding Eyes travels to the region. He or she evaluates the puppies' behavior in different situations. This helps Guiding Eyes evaluate their breeding lines, identify issues that raisers should address and determine when puppies are mature enough for formal training.

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Letting Go

When the dogs have matured, usually between the ages of 13 and 22 months, Guiding Eyes transports them to Yorktown Heights, New York, for an In-For-Training Test. This test evaluates the aspects of temperament essential to good guide dogs, such as confidence. Dogs that pass the test and that are in good health are trained for a minimum of five months by Guiding Eyes' training staff. This training teaches the dogs the skills they need to be guides.

People often ask if it is hard to let go. After watching and guiding a puppy as it grows from a cute seven-week-old to a confident and mature companion, it is a time of strong, mixed emotions. The sorrow of missing the dog is tempered by pride in how you have helped it realize its potential and understanding of the mobility and companionship it will provide if it succeeds as a guide dog.

Dogs that successfully complete the training are carefully matched with a blind person. The person and dog train together for three weeks to develop the teamwork required for them to navigate the world together. Raisers are invited to a graduation ceremony at the end of class and have the opportunity to meet their puppy's new partner and to celebrate in the accomplishment of having helped make this possible. For many raisers, this completes the circle that started when they first met the small bundle of joy that eventually grew into someone's Guiding Eyes.

For a variety of reasons, not every dog succeeds as a guide. Those dogs that do not meet our stringent criteria for guide work can become detection dogs, search and rescue dogs, therapy dogs, or cherished family pets. Regardless of the career paths our dogs choose, we are immensely proud of every one.

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How to Proceed

If you are interested in raising a guide dog puppy, consult the directory of regions to determine if you live near one of Guiding Eyes' puppy raising regions. If you do, contact that region's Area Coordinator (listed in the directory) or print the puppy raising application and mail it to Guiding Eyes. If you have general questions or are not sure if you are near a puppy raising region, please call (866) 432-5227.

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It must be tough to give up a puppy. How do you do it?


We love the puppies and miss them when they're gone, but we're proud that we helped them become what they were meant to be. The joy of helping someone who needs a guide dog helps compensate for the sorrow of giving up a puppy. How many times will you have the opportunity to help another person find new independence?

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Are the raisers responsible for veterinary expenses?

No. In addition to our own veterinary hospital, we are fortunate to have strong support from local veterinarians. Many donate veterinary expenses and Guiding Eyes covers the remainder so raisers do not have to pay for veterinary care. The vets who sponsor puppies provide everything from routine shots and exams to handling medical emergencies that may arise.

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What does a puppy raiser do?

A raiser has two major jobs that lay the foundation for actual guide dog training at Guiding Eyes:

  • Socialize the puppy to everyday experiences such as riding in the car, meeting people and other animals, walking around traffic, lying quietly at a meeting.
  • Teach the puppy manners so it is a pleasant companion in the house and in public.
  • The raisers perform an essential service; without raisers, there would be no guide dogs.

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Do puppy raisers train the puppies to be guide dogs?

No, raisers do not train guide dogs. Raisers lay the foundation for future guide dog training by raising the puppy until it has matured, usually between 13 and 22 months of age. Then the puppy is sent to the Guiding Eyes for the Blind Training Center in Yorktown Heights, NY where it is evaluated. If the puppy has the traits needed for guide dog work (excellent health and a confident, serene, and friendly temperament), it begins formal training with a professional guide dog trainer. After this formal training the guide dog is matched with a blind person and the team undergoes another month of training together.

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What breeds make the best guide dogs?

Worldwide, the Labrador Retriever is the most commonly used breed for guide dogs. Being such a versatile breed, yellow, black and chocolate Labs can be placed in every environment from Alaska to New York City and with any person from a retiree to a college student. To a smaller extent, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are also used. The Shepherd has a fast pace and usually requires a younger, more active person while the Golden Retriever requires more coat care. Having the three breeds enables us to provide the best possible match for each student.

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Where do the dogs come from?

They are produced from a Guiding Eyes' own breeding colony that has the desirable guide dog traits (excellent health and a confident, serene, and friendly temperament). Guiding Eyes then places the puppies with raisers when the pups are seven to nine weeks old.

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Why do some dogs not make it as guide dogs?

There can be various reasons but most revolve around the dog being more suitable as a pet than a guide. Guide dogs need to demonstrate the ability to take responsibility for a blind person's safety; not all dogs have this quality.

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What happens to puppies that don't make it as guide dogs?

Career change dogs are placed in other exciting careers, such as detection dogs and therapy dogs. Or a dog released from our program may be a loved pet going back to the raiser or another adopter. We have released Guiding Eyes dogs working with many arson departments throughout the U.S. and with police all over the world specializing in bomb and drug detection. In these careers, the safety of the dogs is paramount. Once the dog indicates the location of the hidden substance, dog and handler leave and other experts come in and take over.

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Do blind people pay for the dogs?

There is no charge to the blind recipient for his or her dog. Any one age 16 and over who is legally blind is eligible to apply for a guide dog. Donations cover the $45,000 it costs to graduate a guide dog team. People who can't raise are encouraged to help in any way they can.

See also How you can help.

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How long do guide dogs work?

The average retirement age for a guide dog is 10 years.

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What happens to guide dogs that are too old to work?

Most Guiding Eyes graduates keep their retired dogs as a member of the family or place them with close friends. In the few situations when the retired guide is available for placement, Guiding Eyes contacts the dog's raiser. If the raiser can't be located, we have a waiting list of people who have applied to adopt a retired guide dog.

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