Frequently Asked Questions about puppy raising:
Q. How long do you have these dogs?
A. About 16 months — we get the pups at 8 weeks and keep them ’til they’re about a year and a half.
Q. Where do the dogs come from?
A. GDA has its own breeding program, and they occasionally accept donated dogs from local breeders.
Q. What kinds of dogs are they?
A. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Standard Poodles, and some interesting crosses like Labradoodles (Lab/Poodle) and Goldadors (Lab/Golden).
Q. How do you train them?
A. We take our dogs through basic obedience training, train them to have good house manners, give them lots of exposure to people and animals and public places, and shower them with love.
Q. You can take a dog anywhere?
A. Just about — most people understand, once you politely educate them, that it’s important to get the dog used to the kinds of environments his future master might encounter in the course of his daily life. Office buildings, grocery stores, busy streets, elevators, restaurants, crowds, schools, sporting events….
Q. Do the dogs go to work with you?
A. Absolutely! Blind people have jobs too, y’know.
Q. Do they ever get to just be dogs?
A. Oh, believe me — when a puppy’s not wearing his “Puppy in Training” jacket that signifies to him and everyone else that he’s working, he can run and play and wrestle and snort and wiggle and have treats and act, for the most part, just like any other dog.
Q. What happens to the dogs who don’t make it?
A. GDA calls these “career change” dogs. If a dog is dropped from the program, it might be offered to another kind of agency for different work that’s more suited to the dog’s temperament or habits. For example, if you just can’t break a dog’s habit of obsessively sniffing the ground whenever he’s out for a walk, they might try to get him work as a search and rescue dog.
Q. And if that doesn’t happen?
A. The puppy raiser gets first dibs! If the raiser can’t or doesn’t want to adopt the dog as a personal pet, the dog will be given to a wonderful family from the VERY long (six years at last count) “I Want to Adopt A GDA Dog” waiting list. Don’t worry — they all end up with excellent homes one way or another!
Q. How can you give them up? I could never do that.
A. Sure, it’s difficult. But puppy raisers support each other emotionally, and we all know the meaning behind the mission: this is a gift we give to someone else, a gift that will change a life. You should come to a GDA graduation sometime. Then you’ll understand exactly why we do this.