Volunteering | Puppy Raiser
Our guide dog puppies are raised by adoptive families until they are about a year and two months old and ready to be trained as guide dogs. The Adoptive Families Project is an important stage in the raising and training of a guide dog.
It has been proven internationally that dogs raised in private homes or apartments grow up to be better guide dogs. Therefore, the job of adoptive families is to educate the puppies to live in a home environment and expose them to daily life. A guide dog and its blind partner are one inseparable unit and go torestaurants, work, the theater, movies, and other places together. The first training a puppy receives with its adoptive family is therefore very important.
All members of the family must agree to have the puppy in the house. The puppy must learn to behave properly and to understand what it is allowed to do and what is not permitted.
The first three months are the most challenging. The puppy must learn to relieve itself outdoors and not chew everything within reach. During this time the puppy needs constant supervision, so families that are away from home for more than five hours each day are not suitable to be adoptive families. Guide dog puppies must be taken for half-hour walks at least twice each day so that they learn their outdoor surroundings and be exposed to stimuli.
The first year of training with its adoptive family forms the basis for the dog’s future training. An instructor from the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind visits each adoptive familyeach month. Families also attend monthly group sessions that provide them with important information about preparing the puppies for their future guide dog training.
Puppies are given to adoptive families when they are 6-8 weeks old. They remain with adoptive families until they are about 12-14 months old, when they return to the center to begin their training. They complete their training when they are about two years old and are then ready to be partnered with a blind handler.
Will I be able to work while I am raising a guide dog puppy?
Yes. However, take into consideration that raising a guide dog puppy and caring for it is time-consuming. Very young puppies cannot be left alone for long. We recommend beginning to leave a dog alone for 20-minute periods, gradually increasing the time to up to five hours.
Will I need to buy special equipment?
The Guide Dog Center covers all basic costs of raising a guide dog puppy, including food, veterinary expenses, and equipment. You will need to provide toys and bowls for food and water.
What happens to the puppy if I go on vacation?
The center will find a temporary arrangement for caring for the puppy such as another adoptive family or boarding at the center. You must be responsible for letting us know ahead of time so that arrangements can be made. If you wish to leave for more than two weeks, you will need to receive specialpermission from the Center.
Can we be an adoptive family if we have small children?
Yes, providedyou have no children under age 3. Raising a puppy, like raising children, demands a great deal of commitment and time, and parents may have difficulty undertaking both tasks at once. Children under age 16 are not allowed to take dogs out alone, but all members of the family are encouraged to take part in the puppy’s development.
Providing a Stable Home Environment
Guide dogs live with their blind handlers at home, and for this reason guide dog puppies must grow up in the same environment. Puppies require a lot of supervision and must therefore not be left alone for more than five hours. Families with small children or homes without any permanent daily routine are not suitable for raising a puppy since they will be unable to teach them proper behavior at home. Puppies are inexperienced and need constant care. For this reason, adoptive families must be mature adults over 20 years old.
Exposure and Socialization
Families must expose puppies to crowded public places in order to accustom them to being around strangers and eliminate fear of unfamiliar peopleand different surroundings. It is also important to expose puppies to traffic.
If you want to take your puppy to work it is important to receive permission and to remember that the puppy will have to be trained at your place of work.
Physical Strength and Stamina
Guide dogs are moderately large dogs of the breeds Labrador, golden retrievers, or Alsatians. During the first two years they are often extremely energetic, and handling them requires strength and physical fitness.
The puppy will be brought to your home by an instructor from the Guide Dog Center. The dog will come with a collar, leash, food, and vaccination booklet. The instructor will give introductory instructions that will take about two hours. The instructor will return for another visit two weeks later to go over the instructions and offer advice about caring for your puppy. During the year you will be visited periodically by the instructors and will be required to attend group lessons. These visits take about an hour and a half and time should be set aside for them.
The center provides the following:
- Basic equipment for the puppy
- Veterinary coverage
- Food and pest control products
- Personal insurance
We also try to provide help with finding “doggie sitters” and boarding when necessary.
Remember that you are responsible for your puppy throughout the year it is with you! This is a big responsibility and important to the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind.
Puppies on Campus
Many adoptive families are university or college students, and some have received studentgrantsin exchange for volunteering to raise a guide dog puppy. Many colleges have also joined the project and allow students to attend classes with guide dog puppies.
The law now permits adoptive families with guide dog puppies in training to enter all public places, and the Ministry of Transport allows puppies on public transport free of charge. This is extremely helpful to students and provides support for this important project.
We are lucky to have students who take the task of raising our puppies extremely seriously and devote a great deal of energy to the project. The volunteering spirit of these young people who become integrated into the educational system, government offices, and high-tech companies after they graduate is an important asset to the Adoptive Families Project and to the entire Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind. Ourguide dog puppies walking around on college and university campuses, wearing their blue vests are an inspiring sight that invokes pride and adoration. They also boost public awareness and encourage people to accept others who are different.
To apply to be an adoptive family, submit an application form. After you submit your application, you will receive verification that we have received your application form to be an adoptive family. Applicants are screened to determine if they are suitable to volunteer for this project. You will be informed whether or not you have been accepted to be an adoptive family. Applicants who are accepted are then placed on the waiting list. It can take up to a year from the time applicants are accepted until they receive a puppy.
A few weeks before you receive your puppy, you will be invited to attend a meeting together with other adoptive families at the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind at Beit Oved. During the meeting you will receive explanations about the project and will be able to ask any questions that you have.