Friday, April 13, 2012

Guide Dog Puppy Raising Q & A

In the few months I've been a puppy raiser, I've answered the same questions over and over.  Don't worry; I don't mind.  I actually love talking about Reno.  Guide Dogs for the Blind is a great program, and I would encourage you to look at their web site for more information.  For today's post, though, I thought I'd answer some of the more popular questions I get asked or overhear children asking their parents.

Why is there a doggie in the store?  Reno is a guide dog puppy in training.  Socialization is a major part of that training.  He needs to learn how to behave in all sorts of public settings so he will be a good working guide dog for a blind person.  He has been to stores, church, the library, the credit union, the doctor's office, Weight Watcher meetings, the movies, restaurants, and more. 

Why is he wearing a muzzle?  The "muzzle" is actually called a Gentle Leader, and it is a head collar that functions much like a horse's bridle.   It virtually eliminates leash-pulling by the dog. It does not prevent a dog from opening its mouth.

How long do you get to keep him?  Reno came to me at 9 weeks old, and will stay with me until he is somewhere between 14-18 months old.  At that time, he will return to the Guide Dogs for the Blind campus for formal training.

What kind of dogs are used as guide dogs?  Guide Dogs for the Blind use dogs from their own breeding stock.  Most are Labrador retrievers, the rest are golden retrievers or a mix of the two. 

What's his name?  Did you get to name him?  Reno came already named, and the puppies from the same litter all have names that start with the same letter.  So his littermates' names all start with "R", too. 

So, what exactly do you do as a puppy raiser? Do you need formal training?  As a puppy-raiser, I try to ensure that Reno is well-socialized, well-behaved, and knows basic commands.  I'm given a manual for puppy raisers, and we attend monthly training meetings.  We do not, however, train the dogs in how to actually guide a blind person.  He will receive that training when he returns to the Guide Dog for the Blind campus.

Does he get to have fun?  He loves to be out and about, but when he is home and his vest is off, he plays with approved toys and hangs out with the family. 

How can you give him up?  I could never do that.  Intellectually, I know he isn't mine.  I also know he is going to be able to make a huge difference in the life of a blind person.  Knowing that will be a consolation, but, of course, I will miss him.  Some raisers try to keep their minds off their loss by immediately starting to raise another puppy.  Raisers are invited to graduation ceremonies when the dog has been trained and matched to an individual.

I know I'm not supposed to pet him while he's working./ Can I pet him? Thanks for asking first.  If you see a working guide dog, it is true you should not distract him.  It is OK to ask to pet a puppy-in-training, as it helps them get used to all sorts of different people.   I will almost always say "yes", but will tell Reno "sit" or "down" first.  Don't be offended if I say "no", though.  It might be that I'm pressed for time, or that Reno's had a really busy day and needs to go home and relax.

I know I've forgotten other questions, but that takes care of the most common ones. 

Thankful thought:  Thanks to Guide Dogs for the Blind, and numerous other non-profit organizations who provide services to those in need.



3 comments:

  1. I so admire people who can do that. The Man & I are a "1 pet cat" family which we did rescue from the Humane Society, but we are so glad there are ones like you who give so much more.

    Thank you so much for following my blog. I'm now following you as well!
    CAS

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  2. As I said before, I admire you and your family very much for doing this. It's not for everybody. I couldn't give such a hunk of love away again, eventhough his future is great and he will be so much help for someone else.
    This is a commercial about guidedogs and although it's in dutch, I think you will understand the meaning of it. I think it's a great help to make people understand that it's a working dog and should'nt be distracted.
    http://youtu.be/VXWsYyqItLY
    This kind of commercials we see very often, to motivate people to donate.

    Enjoy Reno for as long as you can. Give him a big hug for me.
    Bianca

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    1. Thanks for sharing the commercial. You're right, the message came through loud and clear! I couldn't get your link to work, but found the video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXWsYyqItLY

      That's great that commercials like that are shown in the Netherlands. I don't actually remember ever seeing a guide dog commercial here in the US.

      Reno responds to hugs with a lot of tail-wagging. :-)

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Thanks for making this a conversation. I love to hear your comments!