Guide Dog Training – Is It for You?

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GDAThe Guide Dogs of America center is in Sylmar, CA which is only about 30 miles from our home. I’ve always had an aspiration to someday raise a guide dog puppy for the program. A few years back, I even started the process but then life got in the way, Tino went blind, my aging parents moved here and then Sally passed and it just didn’t seem opportune time as the program requires a pretty significant commitment.

The mission of GDA is stated: …to provide guide dogs and instruction in their use, free of charge, to blind and visually impaired men and women from the United States and Canada. The program was founded over 60 years ago by Joseph Jones, Sr. with the help of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Mr. Jones had gone blind, but was declined a guide dog from other agencies because of his age (57!). Not one to be deterred, he raised funds and the endorsement of the IAM and founded GDA in 1948.
The program to raise a puppy is very structured. First, there is a lengthy application and then an in-home interview. The puppies live with their ‘Puppy Raiser’ family until about eighteen months of age. During that time, it is the Puppy Raisers responsibility to expose the puppy to a wide variety of activities, people, places, and situations they will encounter as a Guide Dog. The more socialized the pup is, the better off they will be to get through the actual guide dog training aspects of the program. You are also required to take the puppy to basic obedience classes and to attend monthly meetings at GDA.
After eighteen months, the puppy, well it’s a dog now, is brought back to GDA to begin their formal guide dog training. That training lasts 4-6 months and culminates in an Awards ceremony where the Puppy Raiser can meet the person their guide dog is being given to. How exciting and rewarding that must be! Of course, not all pups are suited to be a guide dog and these ‘career change’ dogs can be returned to the Puppy Raiser or adopted to another family. Because of their advanced level of training, they are in high demand.

GDA has many programs and opportunities for you to contribute or become involved in assisting their efforts, so be sure and visit their website.

One of my favorite parts of the website is the PUPPY CAM! These are pups recently bred that haven’t gone to their Puppy Raiser homes yet. Check it out. Currently we have a litter of Labs – six pups – 3 black, 3 yellow. I love watching the mom take care of them. These guys are pretty darn new – they aren’t even up on their feet yet. I think this is going to be my new screen saver. And while there might not be too much mischief today…I think the next few weeks we’ll see plenty of it on the feed.
What do you think – would Jack take to a having a puppy invade his home?


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  1. Katie says oh poor Jack! Katie has been the nicest dog to Bailie the past year, but Bailie sure does put strain on Katie with her wild antics. Katie did the same to her senior sister Trine. Jack would most likely do just fine and help discipline a pup, but he would also get tired of being bothered all the time. At least Maggie would be there to pester as well! It is a wonderful program, but just like we couldn’t foster, we would bond too much and never let the little one go.
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    • Maggie was a mom before, so I’m thinking she would be really good…even though she’s retired. Who knows, probably not going to happen.
      mkob recently posted…Guide Dog Training – Is It for You?My Profile

  2. Another interesting thing about raising a guide dog in most organizations, is if the person who has the dog does not keep the dog when it gets older, you will have the first opportunity to get the dog back. This happened with my friend in Virginia. My dog is a seizure alert dog, but I never gave my dogs up when they got older. Great blog! TY. 🙂

  3. wow! love the puppy cam! Interesting post! Thanks for sharing.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
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  4. As a kid I always wanted to be a puppy raiser and actually how I ended up with my Lab, Katie. There wasn’t a guide dog school close to us so I decided to just my own Lab. It would be a wonderful opportunity if you could be a puppy raiser, but I think it would be so difficult to give the dog back after 18 months! I get so attached to animals … haha! But on the flip side it would be so rewarding knowing you had a hand in offering someone the gift of sight.
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  5. The guide dog program is so incredible, as are the people who participate. I don’t know how they can raise the pups knowing they have to give them up. It’s a very noble sacrifice for a greater good.

    • I agree – but the satisfaction of seeing your pup with their new owner has got to be wonderful…I well up just looking at the videos of their graduation ceremonies.
      mkob recently posted…Guide Dog Training – Is It for You?My Profile

  6. Heartwarming! Love the puppy cam. I believe Jack would be ok, and a terrific big brother – but my question is for you all, – how difficult would it be to raise a pup, fall madly in love and then have to say “goodbye” after 18 months. I know it’s for the “better good” but I would be heartbroken. I feel so bad for saying it, but I’m just not there yet 🙁 I have always been in awe of those who do this, what a sacrifice.

  7. I think I couldn’t give a pup away what lived 18 months with me … the puppy cam is great!
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  8. Love the puppy cam. I could watch for hours. When filming for our TV episode, “Dogs Make A Difference” we got to chat to the Lions Foundation of Guide Dogs. Truly amazing and inspiring work they do. The puppies are also adorable.

  9. Years ago a friend raised for GDA and I did check into it. Life just didn’t cooperate, so I never followed through. Jack just might love a puppy. We’ve had senior dogs when we’ve added a puppy to our family and it was all good.
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    • Maggie being a former mother would be cool, Jack…he’s so attached to me I worry he wouldn’t like the competition…but puppies are also fun. I don’t know, it’s likely not going to happen.
      mkob recently posted…Guide Dog Training – Is It for You?My Profile

  10. I can’t speak for Jack, but for you to want to undertake such a selfless act to giving a dog that you trained and raised help a blind person lead a productive life, go for it. Love Dolly
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  11. I admire the people who raise those dogs so much, even knowing it’s for a great cause it might be too much for me to give up a dog after that long. Such a great program. I’m glad Mr. Jones took his disappointment and made it into something great. So on the puppy cam mom’s in the corner and all of them are cuddled up except for two yellow ones in the other corner… I can’t.. stop.. watching.
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    • I know how you feel about that puppy cam…I love when mom stand outside the pen and just watches them…then jumps back in and counts them. So sweet. We had puppies years ago, yellow labs pups and i would just pull up a cushion in the kitchen and watch them all night.
      mkob recently posted…Guide Dog Training – Is It for You?My Profile

  12. This has been on my to-do list since I read ‘Let the Dogs Speak’. It would be such a rewarding experience and I’ve always been very interested in dog training (why did I get pyrs?). It would be fun to have a breed that excels in obedience.

  13. As much as I’d love to train a guide dog puppy, I think I’d get too attached. I really admire everyone who does it, though!!
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  14. What a wonderful thing that would be–to raise a guide pup! I can’t wait to see what you decide!
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  15. I bet Jack would love a puppy pal! The one thing I kind of hate about the direction most guide dog organizations are going is that they breed their own dogs rather than taking donations from breeders who know the breed. Not only are they breeding all the drive out of sporting breeds, but the pups are whelped in the kennel and not in a home (which I think is very important).
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  16. We\’ve raised 4 puppies for Guide Dogs of America and it\’s an amazing experience. We\’re currently raising a fifth puppy for a service dog organization called Canine Support Teams. It is difficult to bring your puppy back for formal training after a year and a half, but it\’s all worth it when you see how these dogs help people regain their independence. If you have any questions about puppy raising for GDA please feel free to send me an email.

    • Thanks for reaching out – that’s so great that you have done this so often. I’m still thinking about GDA, I’m afraid I just don’t have the time right now – but hopefully in the next year or so I will.
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