A woman kneels on grass in a neatly manicured yard. She is smiling at the black lab lying next to her on the grass. The lab is wearing a Future Leader Dog bandanna and looking up at the woman

Puppy Raising FAQs

It's good to be prepared. We've covered the most common puppy raiser questions here.

How do I get my puppy?

Once your application is complete and approved, we'll set up a date and time for you to come to our Rochester Hills, MI campus to pick up your puppy. You'll also need to bring your puppy back to campus once the time comes for turn-in for your puppy's official guide dog training.

Can I have pets in the home with my Leader Dog puppy?

Yes, and in fact, having pets in the home with your Leader Dog puppy can be a valuable learning opportunity for the puppy. To ensure the puppy's health, your personal dogs will need to be up to date on their vaccines.

Do I get to name my puppy?

Yes! Your puppy's name is your choice. It's helpful for your puppy to keep it short and simple, but you are welcome to get creative (within reason).

Who pays for the puppy's vet care, food and toys?

For vet care, it depends on where you live. If you're close enough to Leader Dog to use our veterinary clinic, vet visits are free. If you live farther away, you are responsible to finding a vet for your puppy, paying for services and keeping us updated on your puppy's health. Puppy raisers generously support the Leader Dog mission by providing food and toys for their puppy.

Can I pick a specific breed of puppy?

You can select a preference when you apply, but it's important to note that the large majority of our dogs are purebred or crossbred Labrador retrievers. If you really want a golden retriever or a German shepherd, you'll need to be prepared to wait.

Do I need to take my puppy everywhere with me?

No. It's important for Future Leader Dogs to be familiarized with different environments, situations and people, but it's also important for your puppy to learn to be comfortable home alone. And sometimes you just need to get the grocery shopping done quickly.

What happens if I work full time?

If you work full time, you'll need to make arrangements for the puppy's care when you are away, particularly when the puppy is very young. Little puppies have little bladders. Many puppy raisers receive approval from their workplace to bring their puppy to work with them.

Can I raise a puppy if I'm in college?

You can! We have puppy raisers on multiple campuses. You'll need to check with your college or university to find out their policy on service-dogs-in-training staying in dorms if that's where you live. 

Where does the puppy stay when I go on vacation?

If you're going on vacation and the puppy isn't going with you, you'll need to find a puppy sitter or take your puppy to a boarding facility. Fortunately, members of our puppy raiser community like to help each other out in this situation.

How old do I have to be to raise a puppy?

The primary raiser needs to be an adult, so 18 or older. However, you can still raise a puppy as a family project, or if you're under 18, talk to a parent or another relative about applying with you.

Do I need a fenced-in yard?

No, a fenced-in yard is not a requirement (though it is convenient for puppy potty breaks). The important thing is to make sure your puppy is safe and secure when outdoors, no matter where you are.

Does my puppy have the same access rights as a service dog?

Future Leader Dogs are not service dogs yet and don't have automatic access rights to public places. Many businesses may be open to having your puppy visit, but it's always best to ask first.

How do I train my puppy?

Whether you're a veteran dog trainer or have never had a dog, we'll provide you with structured guidance for every stage of the puppy's growth and development. We offer resources such as the Puppy Raisers Manual, puppy counselors, training sessions, calendar challenges, newsletters with methods and tips, training standards and more. Our puppy development team and your volunteer puppy counselor are available to answer your questions, no matter what your puppy may have gotten into. Every raiser learns something new with every puppy, and we'll be here for advice and troubleshooting all the way.

What are my responsibilities as a puppy raiser?

  1. Keep your puppy safe and healthy.
  2. Attend monthly meetings with other puppy raisers (arranged by your puppy counselor).
  3. Be consistent with your puppy's training. Give it the best chance for success!
  4. Keep in touch with us so we're up to date on your puppy's development.
  5. Embrace the experience! You'll have proud moments and frustrated moments, but in the end, the gift you're giving will change someone's life.

What happens when I return my puppy?

We set up a tentative return date for your puppy when you first receive him. When your dog is ready for formal guide dog training, you'll bring him back to our campus. You'll say goodbye, and the dog will get acquainted with our canine development center: home for the next four to six months while the dog is trained by one of our guide dog mobility instructors.

Saying goodbye is hard. Some puppy raisers choose to pick up another puppy when turning in their previous dog to ease the transition.

Becoming a guide dog isn't right for every dog. If the dog you raised is "career changed," she may become a service or assistance dog in another field, you may adopt her, or we'll find a loving home (there's a long waiting list for our career changed dogs).

We keep you updated about your dog's progress through training, and if your dog is matched with a client, there will be an opportunity for you to meet your dog's new "forever person." This is the most exciting moment for most raisers since you can learn about the person whose life is changing for the better because of your dedicated work and effort.

John DiMarco smiles, looking straight ahead. Next to him is a black lab. They're sitting in front of a white background

Please consider becoming a puppy raiser. In brief explanation, I’ll tell you why: my name is John DiMarco, my Leader Dog‘s name is Shadow. You cannot imagine the difference that Shadow has made in my life. And you’ll have the joy and satisfaction of raising a puppy that will guide somebody who's visually impaired for many years to come.

Still have questions?

Contact us and we'll walk you through anything you need to know.

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