Puppy Raising for Guide Dogs Tas

Tasmanians are waiting for your help.2015_Winner_Charity

Currently in Tasmania, four people are waiting to receive something that could change their lives forever; a Guide Dog.

It costs over $35,000 to get a puppy into its Guide Dog Harness, but money isn’t the only thing needed.

Guide Dogs can only be trained if suitable families can be found to help raise the puppies, and unfortunately, puppy raisers are not easy to come by.

Finding people who want to look after a puppy is easy; finding people who want to give a puppy back for training is not.

Dan English, CEO of Guide Dogs Tasmania, said although raising a Guide Dog puppy can be challenging at times, it is one of the most rewarding volunteer positions available.

“Raising a puppy that could eventually become a Guide Dog is a great way for people to give back to the community, and knowing that your actions alone could transform the life of a blind or vision impaired Tasmanian provides a great sense of pride.”

Guide Dogs Tasmania will be holding Puppy Raising Information Sessions in Hobart on August 4 and November 3, and in Launceston on August 28, where all your questions and concerns can be answered, including the most popular: “how could I possibly give it back?”

RSVP is essential and can be made by contacting 1800 484 333.

Puppy Raisers who are part of Guide Dogs Tasmania’s Puppy Development Program take on a puppy at eight weeks of age and care for it for the next 18-24 months. While Puppy Raisers are not responsible for teaching the dog any specific guiding manoeuvres or commands, they play a vital role in the early socialisation of the puppy.

“The more social settings the puppy is exposed to in its first 18 months, the more confident, less distracted and more prepared it will be for its formal training,” Mr English said.

“Without this socialisation period with the Puppy Raisers, our training dogs could end up anxious and frightened in new or busy environments, and without knowing the correct manners and behaviours they should display.”

Couples and families can express interest in becoming Puppy Raisers, however having the time to raise and socialise the puppy is an important criteria.

“To ensure the puppy is exposed to as many different environments and situations as possible during the week, it is important that at least one adult in the household does not work full time, and can take on the role of primary Puppy Raiser,” Mr English said.

Puppy Raisers are also responsible for house-training the puppy (including teaching the puppy to toilet on command), teaching the puppy well-mannered behaviour within the home, and how to walk correctly on a leash and be discouraged from pulling and sniffing; however, Guide Dogs Tasmania works with the Puppy Raisers every step of the way.

Regular home visits, puppy walks and group training sessions with qualified staff are all part of the program.

Monica Lockley, who is currently raising her fourth puppy for Guide Dogs Tasmania, Taylor, said Puppy Raising can be a very social activity too.

“It gets you out of the house regularly and allows you to socialise with other Puppy Raisers in your area, as well as the general public,” she said.

“You’re representing Guide Dogs Tasmania when you’re out and about with your pup, and it is a great feeling when people comment on the wonderful job that you are doing.”

Guide Dogs Tasmania will be holding Puppy Raising Information Sessions in Hobart on August 4 and November 3, and in Launceston on August 28, where all your questions and concerns can be answered, including the most popular: “how could I possibly give it back?”

RSVP is essential and can be made by contacting 1800 484 333.

A happy ending…

Di and Gerry Waugh have been long-term volunteers for Guide Dogs Tasmania, having raised five puppies over the years through the Puppy Development Program. While not all dogs have been suitable to become Guide Dogs, the common thing with all the puppies is that Di and Gerry didn’t do it for themselves, they did it for someone that needed it more.

Retired Guide Dog Corey, relaxing at his very first and very last home - Thanks to Puppy Raisers Di and Jerry

Retired Guide Dog Cory, relaxing at his very first and very last home – thanks to Puppy Raisers Di and Jerry

Their last puppy, Dexter, became Ambassador Dog for Guide Dogs Tasmania and now spends his off-duty time relaxing at home with the Waughs.

Up until a few months ago, Di, Gerry and Dexter also shared their home with Cory, a former Guide Dog that came to live out his retirement years with his Puppy Raisers, when it was decided that his handler was not in a position to look after him in his older age.

Cory was the Waugh’s first puppy raised in the program, and while he started off in Tasmania he spent his working life in Queensland, where he provided his handler with safety, confidence, mobility and companionship for eight years. Over this time, Di and Gerry kept in contact with Cory’s handler, as they wanted to be part of his journey when he transitioned into working life. When they were offered to take 10-year-old Cory back for retirement, they didn’t think twice.

Cory hadn’t seen the Waugh’s house since he left to start training around 18 months of age, but as soon as they pulled into the driveway, he remembered. He remembered not only where the toy box was, but that this was the place, and Puppy Raisers, that provided him with the early start in life that was so crucial to him becoming a Guide Dog, and changing someone’s life.

Cory passed away peacefully earlier this year at the age of 13, and although he will be dearly missed by all who knew him, Di and Gerry can be proud of the fact that they raised more than just a dog.

Guide Dog etiquette

There are a lot of dog lovers out there, but here are some important things for everyone to remember when you come into close contact with a learner or working Guide Dog and its handler:

  • Do not distract a working Guide Dog in harness or Guide Dog puppy in its ‘L’ plate coat. This includes touching, talking to or feeding the dog. A well-intentioned pat can undo months of training.
  • Speak directly to the person, not the dog, when offering assistance or in conversation with the handler.
  • Never grab the person or the dog’s harness. Ask if they need assistance first.
  • When providing guiding assistance, walk on the person’s opposite side to the Guide Dog.
  • Make sure your pet dog is on a leash or under control around a Guide Dog.
  • If you see a loose dog, contact the local council.
  • According to government legislation, you must allow a Guide Dog to go anywhere that its handler can go. To refuse access is discriminatory.

For more information on Puppy Raising for Guide Dogs Tasmania, head to the Guide Dogs Tasmania Volunteer page
And for more information on the Guide Dog training process, head to our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Puppy Raising Changes lives