Puppy Raiser Program

Puppy raisers are an integral part of the program that make our mission a reality! 

Puppy Raising Program Overview

With selfless commitment and support, puppy raisers are an integral part of the program that make our mission a reality!  As a volunteer puppy raiser with Guide Dogs of the Desert, you help ensure safe mobility, love, companionship and the miracle of independence for the blind and visually impaired through the use of a guide dog.

Between 8-12 weeks of age, the puppies are placed in their new homes to learn about the world and bond with humans. The whole family is asked to make a commitment to the puppy until he/she is 18-24 months of age. The puppy needs your guidance in order to develop into a well socialized, easy to manage dog that can demonstrate excellent behavior in places of public accommodations and in the home.  You will receive constant support from GDD’s Puppy Department Team throughout this time.

95% of the puppies that are used in the puppy raising program come from our own Puppy Development Program.

We currently use Labrador Retrievers and Standard Poodles.

These are normal puppies that will chew, bark, whine, and cry. And…..they are not housebroken.

Eligibility to become a Puppy Raisers:

  1. Puppy Raisers must be at least 10 years of age with parental involvement and support. The adult is the responsible party.
  2. Puppy Raisers must have a way to transport the puppy in an emergency.
  3. Puppy Raisers must agree to allow the pup to sleep indoors at night
  4. Puppy Raisers must agree to follow the training methods developed by GDD, in an effort to raise a puppy that is best prepared to be someone’s guide.
  5. Puppy Raisers need to be able to walk 2-3 miles per day, bend, carry up to 25 lbs., sit on floor, stand and stoop frequently. Puppy Raisers must be willing to get up throughout the night to relieve the puppy until it is old enough to sleep through the night.

If you are interested in becoming a puppy raiser, please contact us at 760-329-6257

Requirements of Raising Puppy for GDD:

  • GDD must receive a monthly report (forms found on the website portal) as well as pictures of the puppy.
  • Puppy Raisers must attend at least 50% of all scheduled Outings or Meetings (these events are scheduled throughout the Desert and Inland Empire Areas all year)
  • All puppies must attend the GDD Obedience Class, starting before they are 6 months in age
    • An alternative obedience class must be an 8-week class, focusing on AKC obedience standards and must first be approved by the Puppy Department
  • Raisers must provide their puppy for any temperament or medical evaluations that need to be conducted by GDD
    • Each raiser will be contacted by the Puppy Department when an evaluation is needed
    • Schedules can be accommodated; however, it is the raiser’s responsibility to have the requested evaluations completed within a reasonable time frame.
  • Medical treatments should be conducted at GDD
    • If the use of an outside vet is required, Puppy Raisers must first request and receive permission prior to the puppy receiving treatment

*Exceptions to prior authorization are only for life-threatening situations

  • Puppy Raisers will spend the time and money necessary to provide food, shelter, care, and training for their GDD puppy
  • It is the raiser’s responsibility to provide continuous care for their puppy for the entirety of their commitment (up to 24 months)

GDD’s Commitment to Puppy Raisers

  • GDD will provide support to its puppy raisers by answering any and all questions or concerns.
  • GDD staff will provide all training support necessary for puppy raisers through:
    • Obedience classes
    • Phone/Email contact
    • One-on-one training, as needed
  • Any required training equipment will be provided by GDD (crate, training collar, jacket)
  • Puppy Raisers may bring their puppy to GDD for grooming and nail trims by appointment
  • All medical care of the GDD puppy will be covered.
    • Treatment will be provided at GDD by appointment
    • Approved, outside veterinary care will be reimbursed from submitted receipts
  • GDD will keep in contact and provide each raiser with updates on their puppy:
    • Results from medical testing and care
    • Feedback from their temperament evaluations
    • Progress in Formal Training and placement

Puppy Raisers Responsibilities

There are many aspects that go into preparing a puppy to become someone’s guide, but there are a few key components that are essential to be learned at a young age.  We ask our puppy raisers to teach their puppies the following behaviors:

  • Basic obedience- a dog that is obedient to its handler is in a better position to learn and accept training. Our ultimate goal is for our dogs to be verbally responsive.

Each puppy must go through one 8-week obedience course when they are between the ages of 8 weeks-6 months (if you are unable to attend the one conducted by Guide Dogs of the Desert, a certificate of completion of a course is required)

  • Walk appropriately on leash.
  • Proper relieving habits (housetraining) and get the puppy accustomed to relieving on leash. Please keep relieving confined as much as possible to a specific area, and do not allow relieving during walks – provide a time to relieve prior to any walks or outings.
  • Proper house manners. The puppy should learn how to conduct itself appropriately in the home.  He/she should be comfortable left alone and confined for short periods of time, trusted not to steal food or chew inappropriate objects, and stay off all furniture and counters.

Appropriate behavior when encountering with new things or distractions.  This involves getting the puppy accustomed to as many new situations as are relevant and age appropriate such as, the bank, grocery store, shopping malls, doctor offices, stairs, elevators etc.

Puppy Living Arrangements

The puppy must be raised as an inside dog spending time with family members and guests. Puppies must sleep beside the bed of the primary puppy raiser in a crate or on tie-down. Sleeping in the garage or on the patio is not acceptable. You will need to establish a relieving area at your home for leash relieving.

Puppy Raiser’s Costs

Costs that may be incurred while raising a puppy

It is the puppy raiser’s responsibility to cover the cost for food, toys, damages, and travel expenses.  These expenses could range upwards of $1,000.  As Guide Dogs of the Desert is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, all expenses incurred in raising a Guide Dog Puppy may be tax deductible; please check with your personal tax advisor.

Steps to Becoming a Puppy Raiser

  1. Fill out a puppy raiser application (see below)
  2. A member of the Puppy Department will contact you to set up an in-home interview. During this interview, a Puppy Department team member will:
    1. Assess your home conditions, and offer any advice for puppy-proofing.
    2. Meet the entire family as puppy raising requires commitment from the entire household
    3. Provide a Puppy Raising Manual, discuss the program and answer any questions you may have.
  3. Potential raisers are then required to attend at least 2 outings or meetings. This will allow you to meet your future support system, get a feel for our training methods, and ask more questions.
  4. Approved homes that have attended at least one meeting will be asked to “puppy sit” a current program puppy for a minimum of two nights. Many raisers have vacations or other obligations that make it difficult to bring their puppy and instead reach out to their Puppy Raiser Group for temporary care.  Temporary care for a puppy can help prepare future raisers to understand the commitment they are signing up for.
  5. After completing the above tasks, and you and Guide Dogs of the Desert are satisfied with the interview process, we will place you on the waiting list for a puppy. Your wait on the list could range between one week and six months before a puppy becomes available. You are encouraged to continue to attend meetings and provide puppy sitting during this period.


Once your puppy is available, you will be notified and asked to attend an orientation meeting. Immediately following this orientation, puppy raisers will be given a puppy to raise along with all the necessary supplies to get you started with the dog.

* If you have any questions or would like more information about this program, please reach out to the Puppy Department at 760-329-6257

Puppy Development

Many purebred and mixed breed dogs can/have been trained to do guide work, but each dog must meet certain criteria. Guide Dogs of the Desert focuses on two purebred breeds: the Labrador Retriever and the Standard Poodle. Both of these breeds meet the necessary size, temperament, general health and intelligence that a guide dog requires.

At Guide Dogs of the Desert, we strive to ensure that our dogs are the best we can possibly provide to individuals, who are blind or visually impaired. This means we make use of extensive genetic and sophisticated DNA testing, temperament evaluations and conduct Orthopedic, Cardiac and Ophthalmological exams.  This extensive testing ensures our dogs are able to produce healthy and temperamentally sound dogs that can work for a minimum of 8 to 10 years.

Dogs over the age of 2, that are selected to continue our lines and have passed all of their examinations, become a part of the Puppy Development program.  These dogs are placed in family homes throughout the Southern California Area, until they are needed.

Females in heat, and the selected male are brought to our Whitewater Facility to mate, and then are returned to their homes.  Males are selected for our females based on their genetic makeup and temperament traits.  They may be called into service multiple times a year, and often stay at the Guide Dogs of the Desert for up to 14 days at a time.

Pregnant Dams are brought back to GDD 5-7 days prior to whelping and will remain under the continuous care of our Puppy Development staff throughout birth and weaning.  Puppy Parent families will be notified when the litter is born and provided pictures of the happy family.  Once puppies are weaned, the mother is returned home for some much-deserved rest and relaxation.  Females are bred a maximum of 3 times, before the age of 6.

Puppy Parent Homes

We often refer to our Puppy Development dogs as “Pets with a Purpose.”  Family’s throughout Southern California enjoy the companionship of a healthy, well-trained dog while supporting the creation of future guide dogs to the blind and visually impaired.

Families that care for our Puppy Development dogs play an integral part of our program that makes our mission possible! These volunteers are responsible for maintaining the dog’s wellness and safety in their home.  The Puppy Development staff are available to support the health and care of these dogs at all times.

All interested individuals or families are asked to fill out a Puppy Parent Home application (see above). The Canine Development Department will then contact you to set up an in-home interview, as well as discuss the program in detail.

If both you and Guide Dogs of the Desert are satisfied with the interview process, we will place you on our waiting list until a dog becomes available.


Contact the Angel Coleman, Puppy Development Manager, (acoleman@gddca.org) if you would like more information on joining our family!

Already a Breeder Host? Access the Breeder Host Monthly Report.

Breeding & Whelping

Over the years, several different breeds of dogs have proven to be most successful as guide dogs. These dog breeds include Labrador Retrievers and Standard Poodles; and it is these breeds that Guide Dogs of the Desert has chosen for our program.

Through Guide Dogs of the Desert’s breeding program, we strive to ensure that our dogs are the best we can possibly provide to individuals, who are legally blind or visually impaired. This means we make good use of extensive genetic and sophisticated DNA testing to ensure our dogs are the healthiest, have superior temperaments, and can work for a minimum of 8 to 10 years. 

In preparation to go out into the world as a guide dog, the puppies are handled and socialized from the time they are born. At between 8-12 weeks old, the puppies receive a checkup before advancing into puppy training and are given to their puppy raisers. Once puppies are selected as breeder dogs and they pass all of their examinations, they are ready for breeding and brought into the breeding center, where they receive around-the-clock care.

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