These dedicated volunteers agree to take a puppy into their lives to socialize it, and teach important lessons of obedience – but all of it done with positive reinforcement and lots of love! Our puppy raisers also take amazing photographs which we share on social media.
Most of our puppy raisers are University students who live on campus. Keep in mind, that most college students in Israel have already done their military service, so they are more mature than high-school kids. They also understand the importance of obedience training, and meet with our puppy managers once a month for follow-up.
Naama shows how Billy grew during their year together! The puppies are born and stay with us on campus during the first two months. During that time we expose the puppies to lights, sounds, colors, materials and other stimuli. After they are weaned from their mothers, they go to volunteer puppy raisers who will teach important lessons every month, such as:
Always walk on the left on a short leash
To not forage for food – so no counter-surfing
Never jump on the furniture
They learn left from right, and right from wrong
And they learn to relieve themselves on command!
This is a critical part of our procedures to prepare the puppies for work as guide dogs. We simply do not have enough people on staff to be able to do the obedience training for all of the puppies in our system. At any given moment we can have 120-150 puppies being raised by volunteers!
The puppies attend classes, ride the bus, ride the train, go into restaurants and the library. All of these experiences will help to socialize the puppies. The goal is to lower their stress levels by allowing them to experience various situations, and then when they are working, they will already be familiar with crowds, noises, etc.
The hardest part for the puppy raisers is giving the dogs back to us after a year has passed. There is a very emotional “Separation Ceremony” when the puppy raisers say good-bye to their four-legged friends. The payoff is when they come back to campus to see their puppy matched with a person who is visually impaired, and watching them walk together effortlessly around obstacles of daily life. That’s the moment when they realize all of their hard work paid off!