The Guide Dog Services provides Guide Dogs to people who are blind or vision impaired, Autism Assistance Dogs to families of children with autism, and Pets as Therapy Dogs as companions to individuals living with disability or a disorder.
To achieve this, we rely heavily on the generous support and commitment of volunteers to care for, nurture and assist in the development of our pups and dogs. Our volunteers are one of the most important parts of our organisation. It takes a lot of dedication and patience to raise or provide care for a puppy. But for our volunteers, it is very rewarding to see the final outcome and the joy, independence and safety they can give a person with disability.
Puppies spend a minimum of 12 months with volunteer families.
Puppy Raisers care for the puppies and teach them appropriate social behaviour to help produce healthy, socialised young dogs with good temperaments to be assessed for inclusion in our Guide Dog program, Autism Assistance Dog program, or Pets as Therapy program.
Where Do the Pups Come From?
Pups are sourced from our own breeding program as well as other Guide Dog schools.
What is Involved?
We place puppies with volunteer families when the puppies are 8-10 weeks of age. Between12-16 months of age, they return to Guide Dogs SA/NT to be assessed for training.
Each Puppy Raiser receives on-going support and instruction from Guide Dogs
Pups are gradually exposed to all of the sights, sounds and smells that they are likely to encounter as working dogs.
If they are introduced to new things in a supported and positive way, they are likely to develop the confident, relaxed attitude essential for a working dog. Since Guide Dogs and Autism Assistance Dogs can go almost everywhere that people go, the puppies need to learn to feel comfortable in the presence of traffic, pedestrians, children and other dogs.
Puppies are conditioned to walk on steps and other unusual surfaces, and to be confident in noisy and busy areas. To develop a relaxed and confident attitude, the puppies must be walked daily on lead by a responsible adult. In the early days, the puppy will walk only short distances on quiet residential streets.
As the puppy grows and develops confidence, it can then be taken to various new environments and allowed to experience busier conditions.
As the puppy’s confidence grows, it will be introduced to more complex and challenging environments and situations like busy urban shopping centres, and travelling on public transport.
Guide Dogs SA/NT provides for all the puppy’s needs, including lead, collar, crate, bed, blankets, brush, food bowls, toys, food, veterinary costs and worming and flea control products. Costs to Puppy Raisers are therefore minimal. Sometimes Puppy Raisers provide extra toys if needed and you will need petrol to transport the puppy to and from training sessions that are held in a variety of areas, both close to your home and away from your local area.
What do Guide Dog Puppies Eat?
The puppies are fed a diet of Pedigree Advance (dry food). A supply of food can be given to you on your visits or it can be collected from our office. It is important that puppies have only their own food at mealtimes and no snacks or treats.
Where do I Take the Puppy to the Vet?
Guide Dogs SA/NT has its own Breeding & Veterinary Care Manager on site who will undertake general procedures, vaccinations and health checks etc.
What About Holidays?
Guide Dogs SA/NT has a short-term boarding program where families look after puppies
of any age while their Puppy Raiser is on holidays or sick. Our boarding families are trained in the same manner as Puppy Raisers. Staff will visit a boarding dog to check on its progress and continue its training.
Where Can I Take the Puppy?
The puppies and trainee dogs have legal access to public places, just like working Guide Dogs or Autism Assistance Dogs. Puppies are not allowed in animal sanctuaries (including the zoo), and certain hospital environments (such as the burns and intensive care units).
Puppies are identified by a Guide Dogs SA/NT yellow coat and the Puppy Raiser is given an identity card to carry with them when accompanied by the puppy. This card demonstrates that the puppy is recognised under relevant laws which enable access to different environments.
Puppy Raisers are guided by staff in choosing suitable locations for socialisation at the various stages of development of the puppy.
If there is already one dog in the house, a staff member will visit and assess whether your dog will be compatible with one of our puppies.
Pet dogs that are approximately 12-18 months of age or older, de-sexed and immunised, and of a quiet, gentle, placid nature can be a good influence on the puppy.
The puppy will need to be socialised and walked separately from your own dog, so that the puppy learns to be self-confident and does not rely on the older dog for security and support.
Children and Teenagers in Puppy Raising Households?
It is beneficial for puppies to be exposed to children. However, due to the level of commitment required for the care and training of a puppy, Guide Dogs do not recommend families with children under school age volunteer for this responsibility. Older children and teenagers can assist with the puppy at home by grooming, toileting and feeding providing the primary caregiver of the puppy is an adult, aged 18 years or over.
Children and teenagers should not walk the puppy. They cannot be expected to react appropriately in all situations they are likely to encounter with a puppy, nor should they be given such a significant responsibility. Young children should always be supervised when with the puppy.
Lifestyle and Experiences:
Puppy Raisers must consistently provide the puppy with a lifestyle that is conducive to positive social interactions, and exposure to a variety of environments. This is to ensure that as a trained Guide Dog or Autism Assistance Dog, they are able to work effectively in all changing environments. It is also imperative that the puppy is not left alone for more than 4 hours a day.
Care and Supervision:
Puppy Raisers must be able to provide appropriate care, attention, supervision and leadership, in accordance with Guide Dogs SA/NT standards. Because of the time that needs to be invested into one of our pups, our Puppy Raisers must not work full time or have any on-going commitments that may require them to leave the puppy unattended for more than 4 hours per day.
Physical Fitness: Puppy Raisers need to be physically fit and strong enough to control a large dog. Labradors grow quickly. They can weigh up to 20kg at 6 months of age and some will mature to 30kg by 12 months. At times, they will be boisterous and may pull strongly on the lead. Some activities will involve regularly lifting of the puppies into vehicles etc.
Puppy Raisers need to have access to a car and hold a current drivers licence, so they can transport the puppy to the vet, and to training sessions, including into the Adelaide office when required.
Puppy Raisers must have a securely fenced yard in which the puppy can play, toilet and be safely left from time to time. Swimming pools, spas and ponds must be securely fenced. Fences must be at least 1.5 metres high.
Guide Dogs, Autism Assistance Dogs, and Pets as Therapy dogs are “inside dogs”. Puppies must sleep inside the house and spend time inside during the day. They will need to be housetrained. You will be provided with a puppy crate for the pup to sleep in and instructions on how to successfully housetrain the pup.