A) Successful methods for raising puppies  

If you have your own breeding programme, you should prepare the pup with key skills before the puppy raiser receives the puppy. A great deal depends on available resources, including experience versus number of puppies! A single volunteer with little experience and two litters to attend to will be able to do much less than five volunteers working with a single litter. 

Age-appropriate (Neo-natal stage to 6-8 weeks of age) activities/socialisation should be done consistently to ensure the puppy is maturing both physically and temperamentally to be considered for a career in your organisation. Many new puppy raisers struggle to learn how to support the puppy when learning new lessons. Key behaviours to consider teaching puppies to help Puppy raisers more easily reinforce the training you have started including: 

  • Following you – this is the foundation of recall.
  • Basic obedience of sit, down and come. For example having the puppy sit before feeding – the foundations of impulse control.
  • Body handling of nails, feet, picking pup up, laying on its back – foundations of health checking.
  • Confidence walking over surfaces, noises and greeting other dogs – create an enriched environment so the puppy gains experience and confidence walking on different surfaces and introduction to novel sound and objects.
  • Being relaxed in a crate. Have an open crate for puppies to play in – introduction to being crated with door open and door closed. Single or multiple puppies. 
  • Getting the habit to toilet where you want it to eventually (for most organisation’s this is outdoors). 
  • Teaching the puppy their name. 


B) Steps to starting a puppy raising programme  

Most organisations have volunteers serve as foster homes. These volunteers have a variety of names in different organisations, but in this document are referred to as puppy raisers or puppy walkers.  

1. Establish criteria for selecting puppy raisers
– things to consider are:

  • Keep the puppy safe from injury (harmful people, dangerous animals, poisons, vehicles) and from getting lost or stolen. 
  • Recruit cooperative people who will communicate with you and will take direction from you. 
  • Puppy raisers understand they shall train the dog to your goals (teaching good manners, basic obedience lessons and socialize the puppy).  
  • Provide proper care (exercise, feeding, attention, grooming).
  • Location where puppy raisers live is consistent with your organisation’s needs and ability to support them and provides appropriate socialisation and health care opportunities. 
  • Puppy raisers understand that they must return the puppy when required, and that the organisation will provide support to the volunteer at this time. 
  • Maintain organisation’s disease and parasite prevention, vaccination and health check procedures. 

2. Establish and agree training goals that puppy raisers should teach dogs, and by what age it should be taught it.

3. Agree transportation arrangements and consider the following:

  • How far away you will allow puppy raisers to be from your establishment. 
  • Will you or the puppy raiser provide the transportation to and from your organisation when the puppy needs care, evaluations?  
  • Who pays the cost of transportation? 
  • How will you provide support to teach the raiser, especially if the puppy is far away from your organisation? 

4. Work out who will pay the veterinary and dog food expenses.

5. Decide what equipment needed for raising the pup will come from your organisation and what will the raisers provide. 

6. Establish what age the dog is to return to your organisation. 

7. Establish which staff will train and support the puppy raisers – this can be time consuming.  


C) Finding puppy raisers 

It is recommended to have a programme in place to continually replenish the supply of puppy raisers. This is important because most people who raise a puppy have heard about the programme repeatedly and finally decide to take on this large and long-term commitment. The most successful methods include the following: 

  • People telling other people – happy puppy raisers tell their friends and people they meet about the programme. This method attracts the majority of new puppy raisers. 
  • Website searches – people searching for ways to get involved may search the web. 
  • Media stories and commercials – newspaper, website and other locations where people will learn about the puppy raising program. 


D) Keeping puppy raisers 

There is a large advantage to your organisation when puppy raisers continue to raise more puppies because experienced puppy raisers are valuable for many reasons: 

  • Experienced puppy raisers usually do a better job as they get better at it.
  • You do not have to recruit and train as many new puppy raisers.  
  • Experienced puppy raisers are good advocates and provide support to other volunteers. 

To increase chances that puppy raisers will continue in the programme, make raisers feel good by providing positive feedback and recognition. Suggestions include: 

  • Allow the puppy raiser to meet the visually impaired client getting the dog they raised, so that they see first-hand the impact their work had on someone’s life (with the client’s approval).  
  • Have meetings or presentations where clients speak with puppy raisers telling them how a guide dog has helped them.
  • Provide the puppy raiser with pictures or video of the dog in training or with the client (with their approval). 
  • Have alternate careers for dogs that do not finish the guide dog programme. Puppy raisers feel better when the dog can be successful at something else, e.g. assistance/service dog work. 
  • Establish limits for the number of dogs that a puppy raiser can adopt or a maximum number they can have in their home. 


E) Supporting puppy raisers 

Puppy raisers must be supported by regular visits by staff who advise and who maintain the required records. Organisations vary in how often and how they provide support to their puppy raisers. IGDF requires regular supervisory contact between the organisation and its puppy raisers.

Some considerations that might help you support your puppy raisers: 

  • Develop a rewards and recognition programme.
  • Create a Puppy Raising Manual with the instructions and the rules you want them to follow. 
  • If you have your own breeding programme, you should prepare the pup with key skills before the Puppy raiser gets the puppy. Neo-natal stage. Refer to early socialisation to build the skills the puppy will need later. A few minutes spent handling puppies from age 3 weeks on will benefit the puppies’ socialisation., Many new Puppy raisers struggle to learn how to teach the puppy new lessons. Key behaviours to consider teaching puppies so Puppy raisers can more easily reinforce the training you have started including: 
    • Following you;
    • Basic obedience of sit, down and come; 
    • Body handling of nails, feet, picking pup up, laying on its back;
    • Confidence walking over surfaces, noises and greeting other dogs;
    • Being relaxed in a crate; 
    • Getting the habit to toilet where you want it to eventually (for most organisation’s this is outdoors).
  • Train volunteers to support puppy raisers in order to help your staff. Especially if your puppy raisers are spread around a large area, it might be very challenging for your staff member, responsible for supporting them, to visit them often enough. You can provide extra training to proven puppy raisers, who become leaders and mentors for other less experienced puppy raisers in their area. The volunteer leaders can provide more frequent regular support (weekly, fortnightly) by e.g. group outings and socialisation walks or individual support. The volunteer leaders must communicate with the responsible staff member, who should maintain regular personal visits, ideally at least once a month.
  • Provide the equipment the puppy raiser needs, for example:  Your organisation providing: 
    • Identification tags with your establishment’s name, website, address, phone number 
    • Puppy Jackets 
    • Crates 
    • Parasite control
    • Leash and collar 
    • Toys  
    • Grooming equipment  

Training manuals and other documentation on this topic may be acquired through IGDF or its members

 Please refer to IGDF Standard 4.2

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Section 7. Kennel services and /or boarding facilities