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.
- (NOTE: At the present time, thanks to a generous ongoing donation from Fromm Family Dog Foods, all dog food is provided. Also, we are supplying Heartworm medication and Flea/Tic meds, as well as basic vaccinations and the cost of spay or neuter. Currently your out of pocket costs will average $0 – $20 per month – subject to change if donated products run out.)
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:
- Puppy raisers receive continuous support and guidance.
- Safety of the puppies should always be a concern for puppy raisers. Whenever a puppy is outside and not within a completely fenced area, the puppy must be on a leash.
- Since an underground fence does not prevent other dogs from entering your yard and may cause an alert or shock at an inappropriate time (such as when the puppy is exploring a bush or greeting a neighbor), underground fencing is not to be used with our puppies.
- Because puppies close in age often form a strong bond when raised together making it difficult when the puppy is returned for training, the OccuPaws puppy should be the only young puppy (12 months and under) in the household.
- Our puppies live indoors and sleep in a crate. Outside kenneling is not allowed.
- Throughout the day, young puppies are to be supervised (or crated).
- Puppy raisers attend weekly OccuPaws obedience classes in Madison, WI. Puppy raisers need to live within 90 minutes of Madison. (OccuPaws has a socializer program in Oshkosh, WI, where individuals will help socialize our puppies located in the Oshkosh Correctional facility.)
- Puppy raisers are encouraged to help raise funds and socialize with other raisers at fund-raiser and other meet and greets. This also presents a great opportunity for our puppies to be exposed to many different social situations.
- The cost of raising a puppy is shared between you and OccuPaws, depending upon donations and fund-raising efforts. The raiser is responsible for the puppy’s food, crate, toys, and leash. (Currently, we are able to provide most of the dog food.) Approved basic shots are given by OccuPaws staff at specific times. Rabies must be given by a licensed veterinarian. Puppies are cared for by OccuPaws’ approved veterinarians, the costs of which may shared, depending upon the circumstance. Transportation costs to and from OccuPaws events are paid for by the Puppy Raiser. (All expenses are tax deductible).
- To ensure that the puppy grows and matures properly, the puppy is to be fed according to OccuPaws specifications.
- In order to determine the progress of our dogs, monthly reports are submitted by the puppy raiser. The raiser reports behavioral, medical, or training issues to OccuPaws.
- Visits to puppy raiser family’s residence by an OccuPaws representative may occur periodically with reasonable prior notice given.
- Puppy raiser agrees to return puppy to OccuPaws upon request at any time.
- Should boarding become necessary, OccuPaws, in most cases, will provide a puppy sitter. **Intact females will be kenneled at an OccuPaws approved facility for the duration of every heat cycle.
- 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.
- The puppy raiser needs to be able to work with different puppies for a varying periods of time, as puppies may be periodically rotated among raisers to allow the puppies to gain additional exposure to different environments.
- Puppy raisers are invited to attend our graduation ceremonies and formally present the dogs they helped to raise to their new partners.
Visit Puppy Raising FAQ for additional information
Puppy Trainers/Area Coordinators
Kelsey Mehlhoff – Puppy Raiser & Sitter Coordinator
Brenda Cirricione – Oshkosh Area Coordinator