Ask the Guide Dog Puppy Raiser

Don’t know if this has been done before, so sorry if it has.

Everyone always wants to ask me about my puppy, so I’m opening it up to people who don’t even have to meet me IRL.

The ones I always get asked:

He’s almost 8 months old, male, black lab. He came from Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafeal, CA. He stays with me and my co-raiser until he is 18 months old, when he goes back for his final training. Yes, he lives with us, and no, we don’t get to name them.
Anything else Dopers want to know?

What kind of basic training do you provide in your home?
Is it difficult to stay emotionally unattached to the dog?

We do basic obedience (sit, stay, down) according to GD’s protocols. We also teach them not to be distracted or frightened by loud noises, cars, people in strange clothing, etc and basically teach them to be calm and well-behaved.

This is my first dog, but it seems to me that everyone gets emotionally attached over the course of 16 months. I think they try to make “losing” the dog easier by giving you a new puppy the same day you turn in your dog. That way you don’t really have time to be sad; you’ve got a new pup to housebreak. :slight_smile:

I used to see girls (always girls, never guys) walk their training guide dogs throughout campus when I went to Davis. I miss seeing those little fluffballs!

Is the training done through the main UCD school or a separate program through just the vet school?

The program isn’t affiliated with the school at all. Its through a GDftB club that encompasses Yolo county. I think the high numbers of students raising is 1) the number of pre-vets , 2) students have flexible schedules and 3) dude, free dog that can live in your apartment. Plus its fun to startle people who don’t expect to see dogs in the Coffee House or classroom. :smiley:

Several of the raisers are middle/high schoolers; I guess 4-H recognizes puppy-raising as a project.

And no, there are not any male raisers around here. Wait, I take that back, I think there is one who just started a few months ago.

How do you teach a dog to be calm and well behaved? Is it possible that there are dogs that just can’t be trained (see: “Marley and Me” by Josh Grogan)?

Do you mean they already have names? How do you call them if they have no name?

Guide Dogs breeds their own dogs, and they breed for temperament, so they’re pretty chill to begin with. Some dogs just aren’t cut out for it, and they get career changed, but they try to give the dogs every chance to help them succeed.

Teaching them to stay calm involves a lot of just sitting and waiting.
My pup tends to get reeeally distracted by small kids. He doesn’t flip out usually, he just wants to go see them. To work on it, we put him in a sit if we’re near small kids and just have him sit quietly until he stops wiggling or trying to approach them. If he gets up, put him back in the sit, talk calmly to him, tell him when he’s doing a good job. When he gets it right, he gets massive praise and knows that that is how to act around kids.

They already have names. They actually give all the pups in a litter names that start with the same letter, I guess to help keep track of things.

How many times a day does someone joke with you, “hey, can I get one of those capes for my dog?”

Several, and its really annoying. My co-raiser has had to email her professor regarding one girl who insists on bringing her purse-dog to class, against campus policy. Its bad enough with puppies, but there are people on campus with working dogs, and pet dogs can be incredibly distracting and endangers their human handlers. Its not even just blind people anymore, I’ve seen Dogs4Diabetics, and medical service dogs, and wheelchair assistance dogs. They’re trained against dog distraction, but there’s only so much you can train out, especially if the handler doesn’t see the pet and know that that’s what’s being distracting.

:o Sorry, I DO hear that a lot and it sets me off sometimes…

Wait, you said it’s a free dog? So are all the vet bills/food/toys paid for? And is this a volunteer gig or do you get paid to take care of the dog?

Also, do you have to ask permission to be able to bring your dog to class? Or because they’re training guide dogs, they automatically get to go to any and all classes?

By the time you get the dogs, do the guide dog people already know that those dogs will be guide dogs or do they sometimes make mistakes? I remember last year I was coming back from a class and I saw one girl with her dog and trying to get him to move. I heard her saying “come on! Don’t do this to me again! I have class! Get up! Please!” She kept pulling the leash but the dog sank his butt down on the pavement and wouldn’t move. Another girl with a training guide dog came by and gave some advice but nothing was getting that dog up. I felt so bad for her, she was pretty upset.

I volunteer for the same organization and I just found out this weekend that the puppy I helped raise has been accepted into Guide Dog college. I am so proud of him! I used to take him to school with me (I had to get special permission from the campus authorities.)

By the way, Penchan-- there are some male raisers in our puppy-raising group. Most are female, though.

About half the dogs are dropped from the program before finishing their training. They can be dropped for medical reasons but a lot of times it has to do with temperament. One of the dogs in our group was dropped because when she was maybe 6-7 months old she suddenly started flipping out around other dogs, and couldn’t be trained out of it. Another was dropped for relieving himself while working. Those kinds of things can be hard to predict.

On the other hand, we also had a puppy in our group who was psycho from the beginning, and finally after almost a year they gave up on her and she is now happily installed as a pet on a big ranch in the country.

What brand of dog food do you feed them, and on what schedule?

Ok, back from classes and stuff.
Vet bills and leads, tie downs are paid for; we only have to buy food and toys. We don’t get paid, all volunteer.
According to campus policy I can take it to class, but I always ask my professors and TAs before the quarter starts, just in case someone is deathly afraid or allergic to dogs. Hasn’t been an issue yet.
They are two months old when we get them, so they don’t know anything about their potential at that point (babies! :stuck_out_tongue: ) There are always some that are stubborn or obstinate, and they usually ending up getting different training protocols to deal with them. It can get frustrating with recurring problems and sometimes you don’t so what you’re supposed to because you just want him to behave, and that never helps. Poor girl. :frowning:

We feed twice a day, three time for really young ones. We also pour a little water over the food to make it easier to digest and it makes them slow down when they eat.

Approved foods are ProPlan Puppy, and some Science Diet ones I think. I know they have to be on a specific Science Diet before they go back, since that’s what they feed at the kennels. My pup eats ProPlan Puppy Chicken and Rice, but he’s also eaten regular ProPlan Puppy (tummy didn’t like it), got changed to Purina EN and Hill’s i/d before we got tummy issues settled and changed to the Chicken & Rice.

But how do you get the guide dog to take you around town? How does it know where to go. Can the blind person just say “I want to go to Petersons Bookstore” and the dog happily wags his tail and takes you there? Do they carry a map? How do they learn these navigational skills?

How do you get started doing this? What are the requirements for you? Also, what kind of training is involved?