Palmetto, FL – December 8, 2021 – Southeastern Guide Dogs is introducing a new Starter Puppy Program to help young pups reach their potential. This program provides the training foundation for the puppy, while their volunteer puppy starter receives a dose of puppy love. Unlike year-long puppy raisers, puppy starters take the pup into their home for only 3-6 weeks. It’s a small commitment that significantly impacts these future guide or service dogs.
Puppy starters will welcome an eight- or nine-week-old Labrador or goldador puppy into their home and introduce it to sleeping in a crate and learning a few basic cues. Southeastern Guide Dogs will provide expert, individual instruction in “puppy kindergarten” once per week during the puppy starter’s duration.
“Being a puppy starter is the perfect opportunity for someone who wants to support our mission but may not be able to make the year-long commitment,” said Leslie Shepard, director of Puppy Raising Services for Southeastern Guide Dogs. “Puppy starters make it possible for all our young puppies to be placed in volunteer homes by nine weeks old, a very important socialization period.”
Interested puppy starters should know the following information:
•No experience is needed. Puppy Raising Services will provide a supportive team and the tools to succeed in this volunteer role.
•Puppies will be in the “baby stage” and will need lots of time and patience in their training.
•Puppy starters need to live within 75 miles of the Southeastern Guide Dogs Campus in Palmetto, Fla.
•Puppy kindergarten will take place weekly, either in person or virtually.
•Southeastern Guide Dogs will provide all the needed supplies.
After living with a puppy starter for a few weeks, the young pup will progress to their puppy raiser to continue their journey in becoming a working dog. Puppy raisers keep the young dog for about 12-16 months. During this time, the puppy will learn basic skills and socialization to prepare for advanced skills training back at Canine University on the Southeastern Guide Dogs campus.
Southeastern Guide Dogs is completely donor-funded and relies on volunteers like puppy starters and puppy raisers to help continue the mission. All dogs and services are provided at no cost to recipients. To learn more or apply to be a puppy starter, visit GuideDogs.org/puppylove.
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About Southeastern Guide Dogs
Southeastern Guide Dogs transforms lives by creating and nurturing extraordinary partnerships between people and dogs. Our organization operates the most advanced training facilities of any service dog organization in the world. Our experts breed, raise, and train elite working dogs—including guide dogs, service dogs, and skilled companion dogs—and provide life-changing services for people with vision loss, veterans with disabilities, and children with significant challenges such as vision loss or the loss of a parent in the military. Pursuing our mission since 1982, Southeastern Guide Dogs now has over 1,200 dogs under our auspices.
All of our services—which include selective breeding and expert dog training; comprehensive on-campus student instruction; and the most robust alumni support program in North America—are provided at no cost to recipients. We rely 100% on private donations. Southeastern Guide Dogs has the distinction of being dually accredited by the two premier, global accreditation bodies: the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International. Learn more at www.GuideDogs.org.