BY BECKY DAN
If you’ve watched the morning news program “Today,” you may have seen the Labrador Retriever puppy who is being raised to be a guide dog for a blind person. The news anchors teamed up with a guide dog school to help provide the first phase of training for the puppy.
Of course, you don’t have to be a televisions news anchor or live in New York to help train a future guide dog! There is a group of volunteer puppy raisers right here in Middle Tennessee, and we are looking for more people to get involved.
We are a group of volunteers who raise puppies for Southeastern Guide Dogs. I'm the Nashville Area Coordinator. When the pups we raise grow up, they work as guides for blind individuals or in other careers, such as helping veterans overcome PTSD, helping children learn to read, working as therapy dogs in hospitals or even sniffing out drugs and bombs.
So, what's involved in being a "puppy raiser"? A puppy raiser is someone who opens their heart and home to a 10-week-old puppy, then spends the next year teaching the pup the basic skills he or she will need for a future service job. Puppy raisers teach basic obedience (plus a few special commands) and they socialize the puppy by taking him to public places such as grocery stores, restaurants, church services, offices, doctor’s appointment and all the other places the dog will someday go with his handler.
This first phase of training is compared to a child completing high school before heading off to college. When the puppy is a little more than a year old, she will return to the guide dog school for formal harness training. There, professional trainers will teach the dog the advanced skills she will need.
You might be surprised to learn that you don’t have to be an experienced dog handler to become a puppy raiser. You only need a love of dogs and a desire to help others! You will learn the specific skills needed to train the dog during twice monthly meetings held on the second and fourth Saturday mornings each month.
Southeastern Guide Dogs will cover all the medical costs for the dog and provide monthly heartworm preventative. You will only need to pay for the pup’s food and monthly flea/tick products.
To learn more about the program, please visit our website here, or contact me (Becky Dan) at or by phone at 615-975-8220.
Together, we can give these puppies a great start, and help those in need throughout our community.
Photos courtesy Southeastern Guide Dogs.