PUPPY BOWL JANUARY 26, 2016

What It Takes To Raise A Guide Dog

Posted by Mary Beth McAndrews

Raising a guide dog puppy can save a life, which is why Southeastern Guide Dogs works tirelessly to train their puppies. They work with volunteer families who take a puppy into their home for year, raising them and training them to be a future guide dog.

But what does it take to raise one of these puppies? It's not as simple as crate training them and teaching them a few simple tricks. It's about socializing them and teaching them proper house manners.

When the puppy arrives to their volunteer family, house and crate training has already begun, but needs to be continued by their family. Their families also are responsible for teaching puppies several commands, such as "sit," "stay," and "down." As the puppies get older, their families teach them more complex commands, such as "down under," when they go under the table at restaurants, and "watch," to avoid overhangs. All of these commands prepare them for their job as a guide dog.

Volunteers must attend two meetings a month where they get support from area coordinators and managers. They receive whatever support they need to raise successful guide dogs.

Puppy raisers are encouraged to take their dogs everywhere, from work and trips to restaurants and the grocery store. This kind of socialization prepares the dogs to guide someone with visual impairments wherever they go.

The Folkman Family and their Guide Dog Suba

Debi Folkman is raising Suba, a guide dog sponsored by Subaru. She takes Suba everywhere. "During the week, with work, I actually take him on calls with me, see clients. So he's in and out of the car. He goes to restaurants. We go to Devin's [her daughter's] basketball games, so he's a little mascot," said Folkman. "And it's a lot of fun. They become your sidekick. You could be in a stressful situation, and you look down at the puppy, and it's all good. They actually help us destress."

While it can be time-consuming, raising a guide dog puppy is a rewarding experience. Devin Folkman, who is also raising Suba, said raising guide dogs is "the most rewarding thing [she's] ever done in [her] life." Suba is her second dog she's helped raise for Southeastern Guide Dogs and the second dog she's help raised that's been sponsored by Subaru. Subaru's work with the Southeastern Guide Dogs helps support volunteer families and support an important cause.

You can learn more about raising a guide dog puppy on Southeastern Guide Dogs website!

Learn more about Subaru's efforts to support pets around the country on their website.