The physical aspect of raising puppies
Nurturing a Guide Dog puppy can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
Our volunteers establish powerful bonds with every dog they care for and play a valuable role in helping Victorians with low vision.
Raising a puppy to become a potential Guide Dog can also be a physically and emotionally demanding process. The demands will vary throughout the various ages and stages of puppy development, as some animals are stronger or have more energy than others. Just like people, each puppy will have their own individual personality.
Although it is a case by case basis, there are some general things to keep in mind if you are thinking of applying to raise a Guide Dog puppy.
About the physical demands
Growing pups require a lot of energy!
Firstly, you need good balance and an ability to regain your position if knocked or pulled vigorously by the dog. You will also need to be able to rapidly change direction when walking, in case the puppy gets tangled under your feet.
Pups can be surprisingly strong, unpredictable, and grow to around 30-36 kilograms. They can lunge unexpectedly and have been known to pull people over.
A strong back is a handy asset too, as there can be a lot of bending, twisting, lifting and stretching involved. For a young pup, you might need to bend down to the ground up to 100 times a day. You will need to lift a pup into and out a vehicle, bath, or away from animals.
Good leg strength and tolerance for walking are essential. Depending on the age of the pup, you will be required to walk for up to one hour at a time over a range of surfaces – often twice per day.
You will need the ability to get up and down from floor level, and be comfortable spending time sitting on the floor while training and working with the puppy. Note: this is also an excellent position for puppy cuddles.
Good upper body strength and range of movement – in particular good strength in your left shoulder and arm – is necessary. Puppies are trained to walk on your left hand side. You will need to control a large, enthusiastic, and sometime unpredictable pup.
About the emotional demands
It takes patience, care, and compassion.
First and foremost, you will need to be patient and remain calm under pressure. Pups have been known to chew up couches, pillow, cushions, and basically anything they can get to when you’re not looking.
As puppies are still learning, they will often showcase ‘unwanted’ behaviours, including jumping, mouthing, howling and barking. You (and possibly your family) need to cope with disturbed sleep as young pups settle into a new home.
Raising a puppy can involve 24-hour-a-day demands, particularly when toilet training. A young puppy may need to urinate as often as every 10 to 15 minutes when they are awake. Your goal is to get them to do it outside and on command.
You need to be resilient – sometimes puppies are reclassified and not selected for Guide Dog training. You also need to be able to cope when the pup is returned to us for training.
About the intellectual demands
These tiny paws will keep you on your toes.
Throughout training, you have to recall our specific processes. As a result, good memory and an ability to learn training procedures are required. You will need good concentration, attention to detail and the ability to comprehend training notes.
You are also required to teach your pup to respond to cues in clearly spoken English.