Hints for New Raisers


Pup wearing diaper



When they place that first wiggly Guide Dog puppy in your arms, it’s love at first lick! You just can’t wait to show off your pup and take it everywhere. Then reality sets in—as you realize that your cuddly, cute pup leaks on one end, nips at the other, and picks up more litter than a vacuum cleaner. Guide Dog puppies are bred to be the best working dogs anywhere. But they are still puppies that need lots of training, supervision, patience and time to grow, before they will have the right stuff to become a Guide. It takes time to read the entire Puppy Raising Manual, so here are a few pointers you can use right away that might help when the cute wears off and that new pup begins to get a little bit too real!

Supervision is the Better Part of House Training.
Young pups need to relieve after they’ve eaten or taken a drink, after waking up from a nap, after playing—or every twenty minutes, whichever comes first. Okay, usually they can go longer, but to a new puppy raiser, it seems like every twenty minutes! Take your baby puppy out on its leash every time it needs to relieve for the first month or two. This teaches the important skill of leash relieving and allows you some control over what your puppy may be picking up with its mouth. As a bonus, a pup on a leash will not discover how to play keep-away by scooting under bushes or running to the far end of the yard instead of coming when you call it. After the puppy shows signs of understanding commands like “come” and “sit,” you can gradually begin to give it more freedom in the yard, and drop back to relieving on various surfaces only once or twice a day, just to keep in practice. Use your kennel to help keep your puppy dry when you can’t supervise it, or if it refuses to relieve on leash. Just don’t leave it in its kennel more than four hours at a stretch, because very young pups just can’t hold it longer than that.

Supervision is the Better Part of Manners, Too. Labs and Goldens are retrievers—by definition he feels better about the world when there’s something in his mouth. Shepherds have been known to be oral, too. Add the chewing drive that teething brings, and you have a real challenge trying to keep everything but the kitchen sink out of your pup’s mouth. No one likes to have belongings destroyed, and some of the things pups try to ingest can be downright dangerous. The solution is to puppy-proof as far as possible, supervise intensely when the pup is awake, and kennel when you cannot supervise. The nylon leash provided with each new pup is intended to be used as a dragline. Attached to the pup at all times, the dragline provides a way to get control of the puppy quickly. It’s easier to grab the dragline—or simply to step on it—than to bodily catch a speeding puppy. Savvy raisers tie the end of the line to their waistband or loop it around an ankle or wrist. That way, the pup can never get out of sight and into trouble. Obviously, the pup must only wear its dragline when someone is watching it, since it could easily become entangled and injured if left on its own. If you don’t have time to supervise the pup enough to keep its dragline free, then probably it should be in its kennel anyway! Of course, there’s always the complication of having to keep the dragline itself out of the puppy’s mouth, but if it seems like being “joined at the hip” to your new puppy is a little excessive, take heart. This approach allows you to effectively teach your pup the difference between toys and everything else in the house. Before long, most pups can be allowed more freedom; eventually you can discontinue use of the dragline altogether.

Quality is Better than Quantity. Instead of taking your pup everywhere, choose outings that are appropriate for your pup’s age and abilities, and only take the pup with you when your entire attention can be on working the dog, especially when it’s very young. When you’re preoccupied with your errand, at best the puppy will be learning bad habits like pulling on the leash or picking up things in its mouth, and at worst might have an accident, or try to jump on people. When the situation overwhelms your pup, an outing becomes a negative experience—one that may lead to shyness, distractibility, or other behaviors that your puppy will have to work to overcome. Until housetrained, most pups do best with short, in-and-out trips, about ten minutes in length, to quiet locales where they can observe the goings-on without being stressed. Until they have completed their vaccinations, new pups should avoid high-dog–traffic areas. As the dog gets older and more experienced, you’ll get a feel for the kinds of outings it can handle, and how much supervision it will need. Then you can begin to take on more challenging outings with your puppy, and include him in more of your daily activities.

Comparison is Dangerous. Our puppy club has dogs of all ages and abilities—we even have some pairs of siblings. It’s tempting to think, “that puppy does such-and-so, why can’t mine?” But remember, each pup has its own set of abilities and challenges. What one pup can do at three months, another may find difficult at seven, or may never accomplish. Try to accept your puppy for its own self. Don’t compare it to another pup someone else has now, or one that was raised in the past. Our task is to give each puppy its own best chance to graduate as a working Guide, so never mind what the other dogs do. Tailor your approach to your own pup’s maturity level and needs.

Asking Is Better than Confusion. No matter what it is about puppy raising that has you stumped or concerned, don’t hesitate to call a leader for help or advice. They are supportive, experienced, and calm; they volunteered to be leaders because they are dedicated to the task of helping puppy raisers. Whatever your puppy did, it has probably happened to plenty of other raisers in the past—maybe even to the leaders themselves. Plus, leaders know when to call in reinforcements from GDB. A little reassurance can go a long way. Let our leaders help...that’s what they’re there for!