Become a Puppy Raiser
At OccuPaws Guide Dog Association, our puppies have a very special destiny — to assist a person with a visual impairment in leading a more fulfilling and independent life. For these puppies to achieve their potential, they must grow up in a loving environment and be exposed to a variety of stimulating experiences.
The volunteer puppy raising program is of extreme importance to the entire OccuPaws program; it establishes the foundation of early experiences, which are critical in preparing a puppy for formal harness training. Volunteer puppy raisers must have the ability to safely house and care for an Occupaws puppy or dog in their home. The raiser might receive a puppy at any age (from 8 weeks to 18 months of age), depending on the needs of the program, raiser needs and dogs that are available. Because it is important that the Guide Dogs in Training are exposed to many social situations, a raiser may have a particular puppy for varying amounts of time from two weeks to four months or more. Volunteer puppy raisers must be willing and able to devote time each day to oversee the complete care of the puppy or dog: feeding, grooming, socialization, and exercise as recommended by the Community Puppy Program Coordinator.
This mission involves four major areas of personal and financial responsibility:
Providing for the care and well-being of an OccuPaws puppy:
- A safe home environment
- Food and other supplies required for puppy raising
- Healthcare – preventative healthcare, spay or neuter (when requested by the puppy program coordinator) and any necessary incidental healthcare requirements.
Enrollment and participation in an OccuPaws or OccuPaws-approved obedience classes for the duration of the puppy raising. Volunteer puppy raisers are also required to submit a progress report each month along with one good photo of the puppy/dog for the duration of the puppy raising as well as report behavioral or medical problems to the assigned Community Puppy Program Coordinator.
Socialization, which involves systematically exposing the puppy to a variety of environmental and situational experiences. Volunteer puppy raisers agree to follow OccuPaws approved socialization guidelines and handling techniques when working with the OccuPaws puppy.
Transportation, which may include taking the puppy to the Vet, classes, events, etc. as well as the costs associated with taking the dog to and from the Guide Dog Mobility Instructor once formal harness training begins.
If you are interested in becoming a Volunteer Puppy Raiser, please review the following
Puppy Raising Guidelines:
- The OccuPaws puppy should be the only young puppy (12 months and under) in the household.
- Puppy must live indoors and sleep in a crate.
- Young puppies must be supervised (or crated) throughout the day.
- Puppy raiser is required to attend approved obedience classes.
- Puppy raiser shall pay veterinary, feeding, and transportation costs to and from OccuPaws events. (All expenses are tax deductible).
- Puppy is to be fed according to OccuPaws specifications.
- Puppy (or a rotation puppy) shall live with puppy raiser until 12-18 months of age.
- Puppy raiser is required to keep the OccuPaws puppy on leash at all times unless in a securely fenced area.
- Puppy raiser is required to submit monthly progress reports and to promptly report behavioral, medical, or training issues to OccuPaws.
- Visits to puppy raiser family’s residence by an OccuPaws representative will occur periodically with reasonable prior notice given.
- Puppy raiser agrees to return puppy to OccuPaws upon request at any time.
- Should boarding become necessary, the OccuPaws puppy must be housed in an approved kennel. **Intact females will be kenneled at an OccuPaws approved facility for the duration of every heat cycle.
- Puppy raiser must live within 90 minutes of Madison, Oshkosh, or Janesville to be able to attend OccuPaws puppy raiser classes in Madison, Oshkosh or Janesville.
- Puppy raiser’s age requirements shall be determined by an OccuPaws representative. Puppy raisers under the age of 18 need a parent or guardian to participate as co-puppy raisers.
- Ability to adjust to a different puppy for a period of time as all puppies will periodically be rotated among raisers to allow the puppies to gain additional exposure to different environments.
Puppy Raiser Application (PDF)
Visit Puppy Raising FAQ for additional information
Puppy Trainers/Area Coordinators
Barbara Schultze – Madison Area Puppy Coordinator
Theresa Moe – Janesville Area Puppy Coordinator
Brenda Cirricione – Oshkosh Area Puppy Coordinator
Kelsey Mehlhoff – Puppy Sitter/Vacation Coordinator