Spanky Features: Guide Dogs of America

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Our Mission

Guide Dogs of America empowers people who are blind and visually impaired to live with increased independence, confidence and mobility by providing expertly matched guide dog partners. Our services are provided free of charge and available to people within the U.S. and Canada.

Raise a puppy. Change a life.

Puppy raisers are the cornerstone of our training program at Guide Dogs of America. At the heart of every successful guide dog team is a puppy raiser who embraced the opportunity to raise a special puppy, teach him to feel safe in the world, and help him learn the skills necessary to become a well-mannered canine citizen.

Puppies are placed with carefully screened foster families, known as “puppy raisers,” when they are 8 weeks old. The puppy raisers’ job is to provide a loving first home, teach basic obedience and proper house manners – to stay off furniture, not to jump on counters, not to chew inappropriate items in the home, etc. They also provide ongoing urban socialization, carefully exposing the dogs to a wide variety of public settings and teaching them to be calm and confident in all situations. Thanks to our dedicated puppy raisers, the dogs are well prepared to return to GDA at 16 to 18 months old, when they begin 4 to 6 months of formal guide-work training.

GDA supports our puppy raising volunteers throughout the entire process. From cohesive “families” of fellow puppy raisers to a structured puppy-training program, ongoing behavioral support, and a fully staffed on-site veterinary facility, the entire GDA team is rooting for each puppy’s success.

To ensure proper socialization, guide dog puppies cannot be left home alone for long periods on a regular basis. Puppy raisers who work outside of the home must have permission from their employers to bring the dogs to work, or a second, committed family member who will work with the puppy during the day. As our trained guide dogs go on to live in all sorts of environments, we welcome puppy raisers from all lifestyles: families, single people, homeowners, apartment dwellers, homes with well-mannered resident pets, etc.

At this time, our puppy-raising program is limited to Southern California, with active puppy raiser groups in the San Fernando Valley (Sylmar Group), Ventura, West Los Angeles, South Bay, Orange County, San Gabriel Valley and San Diego.

Raising a guide dog puppy is a significant commitment, and the decision to participate should not be taken lightly. It’s also one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do!

Warning: Puppy raising is addictive!

The majority of our puppy raisers choose to raise again once sending their first puppy “off to college” for formal training.

The Basic Requirements For Puppy Raisers Include:

  • Live within a reasonable distance of an existing puppy raiser meeting.

  • Attend monthly meetings.

  • Participate in GDA-sponsored obedience classes, including a Puppy Kindergarten and Puppy Skills class. Additionally, attend at least one outside obedience class, at your expense.

  • Willingness to travel to GDA’s Sylmar campus for medical care, health screenings, kennel acclimation visits and behavior evaluations.

  • The ability to teach the puppy basic obedience skills and house manners.

  • The ability to provide ongoing socialization throughout your time as the puppy’s foster family.

This includes not leaving the puppy home alone for long periods on a regular basis.

If you’re ready to apply,


Zachary A. Gittlen

Outreach Coordinator

Guide Dogs of America

(818)-833-6426 (Office)