The puppy raising program
The general responsibility of a puppy raising family is to give a loving home to a tiny 8-week old puppy, train and take care of them for around a year, and then give them back to the association (the hardest part) when they are old enough for their formal guide dog training. Being a puppy raiser might seem like a lot of fun, but it is no easy task. After signing up for it on the association’s website, you need to undergo a series of interviews including home visits to see if the accommodation and family environment is suitable before potentially being selected as puppy raising family.
One of the most important requirements is that all your family members are on board with taking care of a puppy. Apart from walking the puppy three times a day, our duties include attending training sessions 2-3 times per month, follow through with the training regimen provided to us and participate in various types of events. These are huge responsibilities that require great coordination within your own family.
Contrasting to regular pets, there are many things that we couldn’t do with our puppies. One of which is playing fetch with them, as it would lead to the development of a behavior undesired in a guide dog. However, they also get to experience a lot more that isn’t allowed for normal doggies such as going to the cinemas, restaurants, or even taking the bus and MTR or underground. Daily outings like these provide the opportunity for the puppies to get used to these unique environments that they would soon need to work in.
The most difficult thing to go through when raising guide dog puppies is near the programme's end. After more than one year of bonding with the little troublemaker in your home, it is emotionally challenging to let go of them for their formal training. This is even more difficult when you are not allowed to see your guide dog puppy for the next year to avoid distraction from their “college life”. We all had to remind ourselves that they are getting the training they require for their noble cause of becoming the eyes of those in need.