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A black lab puppy sits in front of a body of water on a sunny day. She is looking at the camera and wearing a Future Leader Dog bandanna


No two puppy raiser journeys are exactly the same. Leader Dog puppies are bred for success, but any veteran puppy raiser will tell you that each puppy comes with a different personality, skills and surprises. Raising a puppy isn't about being an expert—it's about being willing to learn and give back. The time, patience, effort and love that you give to your puppy is what makes it possible for that dog to change someone's life forever.

From the moment you meet your little four-legged friend to the moment you wish him good luck on the next stage of his life, raising a puppy is an experience you will never forget.

Leader Dog puppy raisers are:

  • Dedicated. Puppy raising is a year-long experience that takes work to give your puppy the best foundation.
  • Nationwide. There are puppy raisers in 19 states in the U.S. (we've also had raisers in Canada)!
  • Supportive. "It takes a village" definitely applies to puppy raising, and raisers share the highs and lows (and lots of encouragement along the way).
  • Passionate. The majority of puppy raisers choose to raise a second (or third, or fourth, or tenth) puppy after raising their first.
  • Generous. Raising a puppy is no small feat, but the act of raising that puppy is critical to giving someone who is blind life-changing freedom and independence through a Leader Dog.

What Puppy Raisers Learn

John Berkheiser holding a golden retriever puppy and smiling

The camaraderie and feeling of family among everyone involved with Leader Dog. You are not treated as just a cog in the works. Paid employees, volunteers, fellow puppy raisers, businesses, etc. all treat you like long time friends and family.

John Berkheiser

Delores Blomberg holding a yellow lab puppy and smiling at the camera

The friends I've met along the way. I thought I was just going to raise a puppy and improve my dog training skills, but along the way I've met the best people!

Delores Blomberg

How absolutely rewarding it is to turn your puppy in and know they are going on to do someone else so much good. The love, sweat and tears was all worth it. Also, that the second time around is so much easier even though no two puppies are the same.

Natalie Felton

Mike Pikelis kneels next to a sitting yellow lab

Learning about the difficulties of a blind person and how the Leader Dogs can help them and improve their life has been eye opening.

Mike Pikelis

A young black lab puppy looks up toward the camera

That I could love a four-legged unbelievable creature and in the end let her go forward and know I played an important part of her life. Knowing she will guide someone or lead a different path. At one time I would say it leaves a hole in my heart when they leave but now I look at it differently. They fill my heart with so much love and I can let go knowing all will be ok! God speed to all the puppies I raise, I know they're not mine to keep!

Val Benson

A golden retriever holds a red plastic chew toy in her mouth, making it appear that she's smiling

I’ve learned I may not be smarter than a Leader Dog 😁

Spenser McCurley

Krista Stauffer kneels next to a black lab that is licking her nose

How there is such a supportive and amazing group of people—a family—that puts so much time, effort and love to change the lives of others. This was going to be one puppy, but five puppies and hosting a [breeding stock] mom and 24 babies later... can’t imagine not having done any of it!

Krista Stauffer

Pat Phelps-Agnew kneels next to a golden retriever

As we began puppy raising for Leader Dog, we could never have imagined how inspired we would be by these wonderful puppies and the whole Leader Dog family and process. We love the dogs we raised, and then let them go to make a difference in someone else’s life. Yet, every puppy we raise ends up making a huge difference in our own personal life.

Pat Phelps-Agnew

Why Puppy Raisers Do It

A young golden retriever has both its eyes closed as though squinting in the sun

It’s simple. I have a need to contribute to society through volunteering. It also helps that I have an insatiable dog/puppy addiction. So it’s a win-win.

Anne Ritchie

A very young black lab puppy in his blue bandanna sits on a brick surface looking up at the camera

It is very important to me to teach my children the importance of giving back and helping others—that there is more in this world than just themselves. As a family, we love animals so the decision to get involved with Leader Dog was an easy one. I love to see the pride in my children when they explain to their friends, or to people we meet when out with our [Future Leader Dog], why we are doing this. It has been a wonderful teaching moment and learning experience for all of us!

Tracie Faupel

Laura Banks holds a young yellow lab puppy in her arms, smiling at the camera

I became interested in volunteering as a puppy raiser due to my insatiable passion for dogs, coupled with my desire to be of help to others. I’ve learned these four-legged creatures are more than dogs. They transform into a person’s lifeline—their touchstone—literally, their pathway to independence.

Laura Banks

A very young golden retriever puppy sits on a carpeted floor, looking up

Members of my family experienced visual impairment as they aged. I raise puppies in their memory. It’s not about the dog, it’s how they can change a life.

Bonnie Luternow

A young yellow lab puppy sits on a sidewalk in his blue bandanna, looking up

I work in the field of blindness rehabilitation. I see first hand how these dogs can be life-changing. Having the puppies with me introduces the subject of a guide dog in a natural way. It helps to open up the conversation, not to mention the stress relief the puppy brings!

Jessi Troester

A very young golden retriever puppy looks off to the side as she's being held by someone out of frame

I raise because someone raised my service dog Maya (a PAWS dog) when I was wheelchair bound. It’s my way of saying thanks.

Debi Delie

A young, all black German shepherd and lab cross puppy lies on a blue mat

I raise and volunteer on campus because if I don’t do it, who will? If everyone gave back a little without expecting anything in return, we would all live in a better world.

Mike Pikelis

A black lab wearing his blue Future Leader Dog vest looks straight at the camera. He is lying on a tan mat

I continue to raise because it is a small way to carry on my mother's tireless work. She transcribed textbooks and exams into Braille for 40 years [as a volunteer]. Raising allows me to continue her legacy.

A.J. Rourke

Laura Guerin kneels, smiling and holding a young German shepherd puppy in her arms

I started out as a Lion. I was raising for my [Lions] club and then I got to meet someone who got one of my puppies and... WOW! I’m making a difference! It takes my breath away.

Laura Guerin

A golden retriever sits, looking at the camera in front of a pond and wearing her blue Future Leader Dog vest

Raising puppies gives my life purpose. I am improving the quality of another person's life using my skills and talents, and having fun meeting people while I do the work!

Marcia Bedard

Ready to Start Puppy Raising?


Kayla crouches next to a metal German shepherd statue, smiling and holding a golden retriever puppy wearing a Future Leader Dog bandanaWhen Kayla picked up her puppy, he was a sweet, cuddly, 12-pound fluffball. She named him "Hopper" after the police chief in the show Stranger Things. Over a year, she taught him to calmly accept nail trims, walk by her side without pulling, ignore distractions like yelling children and squirrels, settle down quietly when she was busy, and many more skills. When the time came for him to go back to Leader Dog to start his guide dog training, it was hard for Kayla, but she wanted him to go fulfill his destiny.

How do I get my puppy? Can I pick my puppy's name? Who pays for the puppy's vet care? Get quick answers to the most common puppy raising questions.

What else would you like to know about raising a puppy?

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