One of the best ways to help a service dog organization, is to become a puppy raiser. These volunteers have a tough, adorable, meaningful and fun role and I can't recommend it highly enough. For those of you who don't live close enough to an organization to raise a puppy- stay tuned for our next post which will give you other ways to get involved!
1. You get to learn how to train dogs. I can't count the number of people who tell me they love animals and want to work with them. Guess what? Raise a puppy and you get the chance to attend free dog training classes (usually) without having to quit your day job! Many puppy raisers use their training skills to improve their own pet dog's behavior too.
2. Puppies. Need I say more? Here, I'll include a picture just in case you forgot how adorable puppies are. They are as snuggly, playful, and as adorable as they look (for liability reasons I feel I should mention that not pictured here are: the poop and crazy sharp puppy teeth)
The first few weeks of having a puppy in your home is a bit like having an infant, but they grow up a lot faster and are majorly cute.
Plus, service dog puppies are often pure bred, extremely well socialized pups who tend to have slightly more even, calm temperaments than average dogs.
3. Full-time pet loving, without all the bills. Many service dog organizations will pay for all of your puppy's veterinary care, some even help pay for food or will provide you with supplies such as a crate, leash, or toys.
4. You can take your puppy with you nearly everywhere! These puppies will be expected to go to grocery stores, work meetings, dentist appointments and more when they are adults- so you will be encouraged to take your puppy with you to all kinds of everyday places while they are little!
5. Great family activity. If you are looking for something fun and meaningful to do with your family, look no further. Attend classes and outings together, take turns training the dog, and discuss how your puppy will have the important job of helping somebody someday. Puppy raising requires that the whole family be involved and is a wonderful thing to bond over. Even a few grouchy teenagers have been found to be smiling when they show up to a room filled with puppies.
6. Fun outings! Your puppy needs to experience sports games, musical concerts, restaurants, amusement parks and more. Many organizations help coordinate regular outings to these sorts of places to help you get out and about with your puppy. Fun for your puppy and fun for you!
7. Meet new people. This is one of the BEST reasons to raise a puppy. Meeting new people outside of work can be hard. Raising a puppy connects you to a community of people going through the same puppy raising process that you are. Many life-long friendships develop between fellow puppy raisers.
8. The chance to say goodbye at a different time. The #1 reason people don't want to raise puppies is because yes, you often to give them back when they are between 1-2 years old. That goodbye is daunting but the truth is that most of us will have to say goodbye to our dogs at one point or another- and some people really like that puppy raising means that the goodbye happens when the puppy is young, healthy, and off to change somebody else's life- rather than 12 years later when the dog is at the end of it's life.
9. Meet dating/spouse potential. I maybe shouldn't have included this one, but I couldn't resist. It's totally true. If you are single (and not creepy) and walk into a public place with an 8 week old Labrador puppy, you will receive friendly attention from other single-types nearby. Puppies make great conversation starters.
10. Low-commitment pet experience. A pet dog is a 14 year commitment that will cost you thousands of dollars. Raising a service dog puppy gives you the opportunity to experience puppyhood without a long-term commitment, and if you are having issues, you have a large professional support system you can count on to help you out. Some families do it once or twice and then decide they are done, others become hooked and raise one puppy right after another!
11. It's a chance to make a difference. These dogs change lives and it is a wonderful thing to get to be a part of that process. The feeling you get knowing that the puppy you raised went from middle of the night potty breaks and tripping over his own feet to a fully trained adult dog who is giving somebody their life back, is just amazing.
If you are interested in raising a service dog puppy and you live in Virginia, Pennsylvania or Maryland- you may want to check out one of these great programs: Susquehanna Service Dogs or Service Dogs of Virginia. If you live outside of those areas, you can also use THIS WEBSITE (from Assistance Dogs International) to find an organization near you!
(please keep in mind that we cannot verify what types of training methods organizations other than SSD and SDV may utilize. Use your discretion to find a program that uses methods you are comfortable with)