Puppy Raising 101
Anyone can apply to become a Volunteer Puppy Raiser. Applicants complete an online application, agree to a background check, attend our “Insights” orientation class, and receive a home visit by a member of our puppy raising staff.
Give a puppy a loving home. While raising a pup, you and the pup attend Saturday puppy classes, learning basic commands and some guide dog- pecific commands. Fidelco pays all medical costs for the puppy throughout the puppy raising program. And, best of all, you get to name the puppy!
As a Volunteer Puppy Raiser, you raise and train the puppy from 8 weeks old until approximately 16 months old. At about four months old, the pup has its first evaluation walk with the goal of walking properly on the Puppy Raiser’s left side and successfully handling whatever it encounters in its environment—traffic, people, other dogs, etc. If the pup performs well, it earns a “red vest”, allowing the pup to accompany its Puppy Raiser into any public building; this enables greater access to different environments for improving socialization and training skills.
At six months old, the puppy is brought into the Fidelco facility for its first kennel stay. A second stay occurs at 12 months old. These stays allow the pup to become familiar with the kennel and comfortable being handled by different staff members as is the case during formal guide dog training.
When the young dog is in formal guide dog training, its Volunteer Puppy Raiser receives progress updates. Toward the end of training, the dog completes a “Hartford Walk” where it travels a route in Hartford, CT, and its Volunteer Puppy Raiser is invited to watch. At the end of the walk, the Puppy Raiser reunites with the pup for a final time before the dog is matched with a client.
Puppy training occurs in a variety of locations. “Home Base” for training is the Puppy Raiser’s home where the pup receives loving care and consistent socialization training. Saturday classes are held at our Bloomfield and Wilton campuses, with the frequency of classes determined by the pup’s age. Exposure to environments outside of the home and classes—shopping malls, workplaces, places of worship, and other venues that the Puppy Raiser frequents—enriches the pup’s socialization training.
Without the loving homes and socialization training provided to our pups by dedicated Volunteer Puppy Raisers, Fidelco could not continue to fulfill its mission.
PUPPY RAISING FACTS
Current pups in the Volunteer Puppy Raising Program: 61
Since January 2000: 1,644 pups born
Most pups raised by one Puppy Raiser: 40
Fidelco names and identifies puppies by using the alphabet.
For example, pups in the “T-28” litter all have names beginning with the letter “T,” and the 28 signifies that we’ve gone through the alphabet 28 times.
If a pup doesn’t qualify for guide dog work, different career paths are offered, including law enforcement, search and rescue, and security. Sometimes, the best option for the pup is to become a wonderful pet. We always find them loving, forever homes.